Choosing Cleaner Energy

PA windmills, picture from the state turnpike commission

Wouldn’t it be nice to have renewable energy without the upfront cost and effort of putting up solar panels – if its even an option for your house? Its possible.

Everybody in Garden City has been harassed by the calls to change your energy. Every year we have people knocking on doors trying to sign you up for something, sometimes deceptively. All of this is because Pennsylvania decided to allow residents to choose their energy supplier. So you can pick who’s supplying the grid with the energy you buy from PECO. But its not all bad!

The state’s Public Utility Commission has a helpful website here. Although its not immediately obvious, it is an official government site to help you make a good decision about your electricity. Put in your zip code, then click on the link for R – Regular Residential Service. Next, click on the green link for Fixed Rate results (these are safer than variable, which can fluctuate or unlimited, where you pay a high price but your electricity isn’t metered).

It will then give you a list of options. On the left though, you can sort these. Under Terms & Conditions, check the boxes for no cancellation fee, no monthly fee and no enrollment fee – those are options that usually ambush consumers with unwanted fees. Under special programs you can select Renewable Energy, PA Wind, Renewable PA or Solar. Some of these options will limit your options more than others. If you want renewable energy produced in PA, it’ll cost more than the national options.

Clicking Renewable Energy, there are options that are cheaper than PECO’s default rate! You’ll be purchasing “renewable energy” for the same cost you pay now. But not all renewable options are equal. Most of these energy producers purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), many of which come from existing hydro, wind and solar facilities. These RECs are not terribly expensive anymore, so many companies produce power using coal or gas and purchase RECs and still come in at lower expense than PECO. Its still better than not buying the RECs, but its not as good as it could be.

I use the Energy Co-op, which is a Philadelphia all-renewable energy company. Its not the cheapest but its 1) local, 2) non-profit and 3) all renewable. I recently asked them how some of these companies can offer renewable energy at such low rates, and this was the reply,

In Pennsylvania, the least expensive renewable electricity is offered by large, vertically integrated companies. That means over 90% of the electricity those companies generate and supply is not renewable: it’s produced with coal, natural gas, nuclear, and other non-renewable fuels. Non-renewable energy is heavily subsidized, so these companies are able to use that subsidy to artificially lower the cost of their renewable products. As a result, their customers have no assurance that the dollars they spend on renewable energy won’t be invested in non-renewable fuel projects. Unfortunately, it takes a little digging to find out what’s going on behind the rate with each supplier.

If you do a little homework then you too could reduce your carbon footprint without paying a fortune! I’ll try to do some research on some of the renewable options listed on https://www.papowerswitch.com/ for a future post.

Categories: Ramblings