Getting Green Power: If You Want It, Prove It

Green House Green Energy photo

Photo via Eyesplash Mikul @ flickr.
Green power -- that is, power generated by renewable energy -- for residential use is widely available, but remains a bit perplexing to some. Typically, getting green power for your home means paying a little a extra on your utility bill or purchasing renewable energy credits. That money doesn't necessarily mean that when you switch on a lamp you get wind or solar or geothermal power delivered directly to light up the bulb, however. Instead, the premium you pay for each kilowatt hour of energy used means the utility you buy from should be building or buying cleaner sources of energy. Alternatively, you can get your regular utility company's power mix and buy add-on green certificates that represent more of the clean and green stuff going into the grid somewhere. (To learn more about how you can get green power, read 5 Good Ways to Get Green Power Into Your Home.)

Green is definitely good when it comes to electricity, and it's one of the easiest green actions you can take, but it also raises another perplexing question -- if it's green and it's good, shouldn't we just use more of it?

Green Energy Map photo

Green power resources in every state at EERE.

Consider these two scenarios:

Green Power Consumer 1: Family A

Family A, through smart habits, buying green appliances and efficient heating and cooling, tries to reduce its power needs overall. And they buy green power.

And then, there's Green Power Consumer 2: Family B

Family B, on the other hand, doesn't reduce their power consumption, and consumes much more than Family A. And...they buy green power.Which family is being more environmentally friendly?Your gut reaction might be that Family A is being more environmental as they have reduced their electricity needs.But couldn't one also argue that Family B is in fact being more "supportive" of the green energy market? Last year, more money in investments went to green energy than fossil fuels, but the industry found the start of 2009 a tough time to get needed investments in a down economy. So shouldn't we send a larger message of consumer interest in green power by using more personally?Seems tricky, doesn't it? But it is actually the wrong question. Both Family A and Family B contribute to utility's perception that Americans want green power. And that's currently what is most important.Because so far, Americans say they want green power, but they haven't kept their pledge of actually buying it! Only about 2 percent of power users, or 600,000 Americans, have signed up for green power. (They're paying an average of $.02 cents more per kilowatt hour, by the way.)This could be because as a recent Burston Marsteller survey surmises, there's a gap between what Americans say they are willing to pay and what they believe green power will cost. In other words, thinking it will be more expensive than it actually is is holding a lot of us back. Is this you?So here's the bottom line. There are green power providers in every state. Signing up is relatively quick, will cost you $100--200 (or less) each year and will cut your footprint in most states by circa 4 tons. (That's about 20% of the average person's carbon footprint.) So take the plunge -- or tell us those good reasons why you won't; it might get you on the road to home efficiency improvements.Read more about green power at TreeHugger
Green Power to Your Home Gets a Little More Affordable
How to Get Renewable Energy Into Your Dorm Room
Beating the Energy Efficiency Paradox Part I
Beating the Energy Efficiency Paradox Part II

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