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TreeHugger Tip: Getting Green Power

The thought of using renewable energy is pretty exciting for most of us, and the benefits of using green power are familiar to even a casual TreeHugger reader. Produced by wind, sun, landfill gas, biomass, and other renewable sources, it’s becoming available to more and more people across the US. More than half of retail customers in the United States now have an option of purchasing a green power product directly from their electricity supplier; for those who don’t, there are increasing options to support renewable energy development for pennies a day.

For starters, the Green Power Network, a US Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) project, can tell you whether or not a local utility in your state [www.eere.energy.gov] offers the option to purchase energy from renewable sources; as stated above, you’ve got better than a 50/50 shot at it. For example, this TreeHugger has the option to buy clean energy (generated by wind, in this case) for an extra 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Premiums generally range from 1 – 4 cents per kWh, which, for a typical American household (which typically consumes a little less than 11,000 kWh per year), works out to between about $8 and $25 per month. Sure, it costs a bit more now, but as dirty power rates continue to rise — currently, the average price in the US is about 10 cents per kWh — the prices will even out. Plus, the price you pay now does not account for the lifecycle costs and environmental damage that burning fossil fuels (usually coal) causes. Think of it this way: you can either a) continue to contribute to global warming, air pollution and further landscape and atmospheric degradation and save 10 bucks or you can b) support renewable energy, feel good about it, sleep better at night and see one less movie per month. Plus, TreeHugger is willing to bet than you can save yourself that 10 bucks in increased efficiency in your home without trying too hard (but that’s another post). Check out the Green Power Network [www.eere.energy.gov] for more details on getting green energy in your home.

For those of you in the minority who can’t get green power, don’t fret. You can still purchase green power through your utility, in a couple different ways. More than 500 regulated utilities spanning more than 30 states offer “green pricing programs”, which can help you hop on the hybrid bandwagon. Green pricing allows you to support a provider’s investment in renewable energy by paying a premium on your bill in order to help defray the costs of acquiring renewable energy resources. Check EERE’s table of green pricing programs [www.eere.energy.gov] to see what’s available near you.

There will be a few of you who can’t get either green power or the aforementioned pricing programs, but we won’t leave you out in the cold. You can still contribute to this noble effort by purchasing green energy certificates, sometimes called “green tags” or “renewable energy credits” (RECs), which represent the environmental attributes of power generated from renewably-sourced plants. What you pay for when you buy renewable energy certificates is the benefit of displacing other non-renewable sources from the regional or national electric grid. That is to say, when you purchase renewable certificates, you are increasing demand for additional renewable generation and also reducing global climate change and regional air pollution (hooray!). They can be had for similar price premiums to the options above, and serve almost the same function. The bottom line remains: no matter who you are or where you live, you can support greener, renewable energy today, with just a few clicks of the mouse. Learn more at EERE’s Green Power Network [www.eere.energy.gov], and other REC providers like the excellent Green-e [www.green-e.org].