Solar power systems for residential homes continue to expand across the US. Some factors driving this increase include the decreasing costs of installing solar systems and a growing number of folks who are aware of their own carbon footprint and who want to make a positive difference for the environment.
I may cover home solar systems and their benefits (both for the owner and environment) in the future. However, that option may not be available to many people (upfront cost, living in an apartment, etc). Today I want to share a step most of us can take right now to help increase “green power” in the grid without needing to install a solar system.
Most energy companies offer a green power pricing option. This allows you to pay a small premium to require that the amount of energy you buy from them originate from renewable sources like solar or wind. If your utility doesn’t offer this, you can also purchase Renewable Energy Credits to do something similar.
MG&E in Madison, WI offers a program called “Green Power Tomorrow” which costs an extra 1 cent per KWH. You can choose a percentage of your energy (1% to 100%) to be renewable energy. The utility company must demonstrate that this amount of energy is provided to the grid from renewable sources (above and beyond what state or federal requirements they must meet for renewable energy percentage). We are signed up for this program and this past month we used 249 KWH of electricity so this month it added an extra $2.49 to our energy bill.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the actual energy we use in our home is green because we draw from the grid which is a shared “pool” of electricity. I also need to do more research, but I believe that renewable energy sources are now actually very competitive in cost with fossil fuel sources so it doesn’t seem like $0.01 is necessarily directly tied to energy cost differences. However, there may be more costs associated with bringing more renewable sources into a utility company’s overall mix.
Nevertheless, we are willing to pay the extra amount each month to financially communicate our desire for clean energy and, with other participants, hopefully increase how much renewable energy is generated for the grid.
I encourage you to look into your own green power options. Here is some background info on overall options and MG&E’s program: