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July 28, 2003 9:29 AM   Subscribe

An alternative means towards alternative energy? Duke Energy in NC is offering its customers an opportunity to vote for alternative energy sources with their wallets starting today. While you are not really buying the Green Power directly, you are in effect subsidizing it. Is this a creative way to Go Green, or just another feel good gesture?
posted by ElvisJesus (13 comments total)
On my home province of Prince Edward Island you can already buy 'green energy' from the local power utility that is generated at a wind form on the northwestern point of the island. Most of this power is used by PEI government buildings, but about 20% of it is mae available to the public who, if they want it, can pay a premium over the normal electricity costs, but this extra money goes directly to the green energy project. The project web site is here.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:41 AM on July 28, 2003

We have this in Austin, Texas, too: GreenChoice. The power comes from wind turbines in West Texas, a methane gas facility near San Antonio, and a hydroelectric facility on the Guadalupe River. It costs slightly less than one cent more per kilowatt hour.

Personally, I think this is a great idea, and a very effective means of speeding the transition to renewable energy sources. By buying green, you're doing your part to create and enlarge the market for renewable energy. I think creating more demand at a consumer level is probably a much more effective means of making change than attempting to create the market through purely legislative means.
posted by eyebeam at 10:20 AM on July 28, 2003

Just this week, my household started paying a smidgen more for its electric because that small increase supposedly ensures that part of our energy comes from wind power. My fella checked with the Sierra Club and reported that they seemed to think the program was worthwhile, if not perfect.
posted by clever sheep at 10:32 AM on July 28, 2003

I subscribe to get 100% of my electricity from Windsource here in Colorado. I think it is a great way to support alternative/renewable energy, and it lets simple folks like me put their money where their mouth is rather than bitching about it, then bitching when the bill is higher, or having someone else bitch about where their tax dollars are going. There is even a microbrewery, New Belgium Brewery, that gets all of its power from a wind turbine.
posted by Eekacat at 10:36 AM on July 28, 2003

There's a similar option for customers of Seattle City Light. (Of course, much of the region's power already comes from hydroelectric dams, which are not environmentally perfect (also this) but better than, say, coal.)
posted by hattifattener at 10:51 AM on July 28, 2003

A feel-good gesture.
posted by creamed corn at 10:55 AM on July 28, 2003

Any state that offers choice in its electricity provision regulation, in essence, in any state that has deregulated its electricity sector, you can choose to buy your power from environmentally friendly "green" suppliers.

Some states, like Maine, require that all sellers of electricity obtain a percentage of their reserves from environmentally friendly generation, in Maine I believe it is 15 or 20%.

It will be interesting to see if, as choice spreads, people are willing to buy higher cost electricity from environmentally sustainable producers. What markets will exist for these types of products?
posted by pjgulliver at 11:15 AM on July 28, 2003

The half-empty side of me thinks this is just a ploy to separate good-hearted liberals from the more important 'green' in their pockets, particularly since you're just electing to foot the bill for their own internal development. If you really feel generous, I'd recommend donating directly.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:19 AM on July 28, 2003

Civil_Disobedient, the way I read it in the Web site you link to is the premium customers pay on their power is essentially a donation to NC GreenPower, which is a subsidiary of Advanced Energy. Colorado Windsource charges extra because wind energy does cost slightly more than say Coal. I agree with eyebeam that it's a great idea, and worth the extra coupla bucks a month it costs me, to develop a market for alternative energies.

So creamed corn, what do you suggest then? The status quo?
posted by Eekacat at 12:16 PM on July 28, 2003

The Snohomish Public Utility District ("Snopud") also recently offered to let customers buy electricity from alternative sources. The prices looked pretty good and I almost signed up until I realized that the prices they listed were a surcharge on their regular rates. This was not at all clear from an initial glance and made it much less attractive. No, I am not interested in a 60% increase in my electric bill, thank you.
posted by kindall at 12:23 PM on July 28, 2003

And hence the problems with promoting sustainable energy Kindall. Very few people are willing to take a 60% surcharge (though that sounds awfully high) on their electricity bill.
posted by pjgulliver at 12:58 PM on July 28, 2003

Well, they sold it in blocks, and my average monthly use put me just inside a block.
posted by kindall at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2003

I'd happily pay a 60% surcharge; rates are so low it hardly matters. I'll have to go sign up for that Seattle City Light program.

I might be less enthusiastic if I lived in some five-bedroom monster with air conditioning.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:57 PM on July 28, 2003

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