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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

  • Help end world hunger
  • Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Remaking America's Energy System: Greener Energy and American Jobs

    The number one thing our generation has to do now for our children and grandchildren is to remake America's energy system. The impact of doing this would be enormous. It would reduce our national carbon footprint and massively reduce our trade deficit, WHILE creating domestic jobs, helping farmers and clearing our air of pollutants. And you, as a consumer, can be part of this remaking of America by purchasing YOUR energy from green energy producers. For only pennies more a month per kilowatt-hour, you can be the change America needs in its energy policy. My wife and I have been doing it for close to a decade.

    When you buy Green Energy generally you are not necessarily actually getting electrons from green energy. Instead, when you pay for your energy use your money goes towards the building of green energy production plants and the purchase of green energy from those production plants into the grid. In essence, you are creating a market for green energy in preference to fossil fuel burning plants. And that is what is absolutely critical in remaking our energy infrastructure: creating the market. You and I can be part of that. Obama needs to create more incentives for Green Energy. But we need to create the market.

    Here is an overview of Green Power Markets, the method through which you can buy Green Energy regardless of your utility company (from this site):

    The essence of green power marketing is to provide market-based choices for electricity consumers to purchase power from environmentally preferred sources. The term "green power" is used to define power generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower and various forms of biomass. Green power marketing has the potential to expand domestic markets for renewable energy technologies by fostering greater availability of renewable electric service options in retail markets. Although renewable energy development has traditionally been limited by cost considerations, customer choice allows consumer preferences for cleaner energy sources to be reflected in market transactions. In survey after survey, customers have expressed a preference and willingness to pay more, if necessary, for cleaner energy sources. You can find more information about purchase options on our "Buying Green Power" page.

    Green pricing is an optional utility service that allows customers an opportunity to support a greater level of utility company investment in renewable energy technologies. Participating customers pay a premium on their electric bill to cover the incremental cost of the additional renewable energy. As of the end of 2007, more than 750 utilities across the nation, including investor-owned, municipal utilities, and cooperatives, offer a green pricing option.

    The more general concept of green power marketing refers to selling green power in competitive markets, in which multiple suppliers and service offerings exist. Electricity markets are now fully or partially open to competition in more than a dozen states. To date, competitive marketers have offered green power to retail or wholesale customers in District of Columbia, California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Virginia, and several New England states.

    Whether or not they have access to green power through their local utility or a competitive electricity marketer, consumers can purchase renewable energy certificates or RECs (also known as green tags or tradable renewable certificates). RECs represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects and can be sold separately from the physical electricity. Customers can buy RECs without having to switch electricity suppliers.

    Joy and I have been doing this for many years now. We buy our energy through Co-Ed Solutions. We purchase the all-wind energy program where we pay 3 cents per kilowatt-hour more per month to purchase enough wind energy for the grid to balance what we draw from the grid. There is a slightly cheaper option (2 cents per kilowatt-hour) that purchases a mix of wind and small hydroelectric energy (since the hydroelectric already exists the cheaper option has less of an impact on the market, but it still better than nothing). I think they operate this program in New York, New Jersey and Connectitcut. You can sign up here. We have talked with the organizers of this kind of project and they say that the program has been wildly successful in bringing wind generation to farms throughout the upstate NY and surrounding regions. This not only creates cleaner energy, but it helps struggling farms. In essence, farmers get paid so little for the crops they grow thanks to the very limited number of distribution conglomerates that buy and sell their crops that setting up a windmill or two on their property to sell electricity to the grid can make them as much money or more than they make growing crops.

    Wouldn't you rather help our American farmers than Saudi oil sheiks and the Venezuelan government (two main places our oil money goes)?

    When we switched to green energy, we also switched to compact fluorescent bulbs. Our energy bill went down by more than 30% as soon as we switched bulbs. That alone saved far more money than we spent buying the green energy option. So we cut our carbon foot print considerably while saving money. I recommend a similar combination strategy.

    You can find similar green energy options throughout the country. This website has a map of the US you can click on to see the Green Energy buying options in your state. The number one thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint right now, and help rebuild America on a more sustainable, prosperous path, is to start buying Green Energy now. Click on your state and see what is available.

    Finally, there are programs indepdendant of utility companies that you can use. I think it does the same thing but slightly less directly by doing a kind of carbon offset approach. Here is a Green Energy program through CarbonFund.org. It is not directly through your utility, but winds up being about the same impact on the energy genreation market:

    Buy Green Power

    MyGreenFuture is Carbonfund.org’s Green-e Energy certified renewable energy product via the purchase and retirement of renewable energy certificates (RECs). If you are interested in purchasing MyGreenFuture RECs, please contact us at mygreenfuture@carbonfund.org, or call toll free: 877-286-4698.

    Your purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) is supporting renewable electricity production nationally. You will continue to receive a separate electricity bill from your utility. For every unit of renewable electricity generated, an equivalent amount of RECs is produced. The purchase of RECs helps offset conventional electricity generation in the region where the renewable electricity generator is located. The purchase also helps build a market for renewable electricity and has other environmental benefits such as reducing global climate change and air pollution.

    For more information about RECs, please contact us at mygreenfuture@carbonfund.org.

    Take this step. You can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 25% through this one action. And you can help Obama rebuild America.


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