Greening Our Energy Future Can Start at Home

Talked to your friends lately about the importance of renewable energy? If so, those conversations may have focused on the need for more government investment or a stronger pro-renewables energy policy. What can easily get overlooked is our ability to support renewables directly. When it comes to green power, our purchasing power can make a difference.

Whether you live in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you can choose your “electric supplier” – the company that produces your electricity. This isn’t new. Both states deregulated their utility markets in the 1990s, requiring utilities (such as PECO, JCP&L and PSE&G) to sell off their generation assets and begin purchasing energy on the wholesale market. Since the late 1990s, both PA and NJ consumers have been able to purchase energy from competing suppliers. But while many took advantage of that opportunity, energy “choice” got off to a relatively slow start as suppliers figured out how to compete profitably and attract consumers.

Now, as you’ve probably noticed from all the electricity supplier direct mail piling up on your countertop (at least in PA), more than a few of these companies are actively seeking your business. That’s because PA’s rate caps will be expiring at the end of the year, making electricity more expensive for consumers — and presenting a big opportunity for suppliers able to offer competitive rates. Interest in switching electricity providers is also on the rise in NJ, where lower energy prices (at least partly due to a drop in natural gas prices because of increased supply — a whole other subject) is giving consumers an incentive to shop around.

An Opportunity to Go Green

A lot of the marketing around energy choice focuses on price. But this also is a big opportunity for everyday consumers to support green, renewable energy from  resources including solar, wind, biomass, hydropower and geothermal. Both PA and NJ have supported the growth of the renewables industry. In PA, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) require that, by 2020, 18% of the energy supplied to consumers by “electric distribution companies” (EDCs) and “electric generation suppliers” (EGSs) comprise “alternative energy resources.”1 In NJ, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires that 22.5% of the energy utilities supply to consumers be renewable by 2021. Additionally, solar power must comprise at least 4.1% of sales for NJ utilities and suppliers by 2028.

You can help your state reach these goals – and make a difference in reducing greenhouse gases from carbon-based fuels — simply by choosing a renewable energy supplier for your home (or business).

How to buy green energy

This may sound overwhelming – and like the last thing you want to be dealing with during the holidays. But shopping for a green energy supplier is relatively easy.

  • In PA, go to www.papowerswitch.com (Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission), select “Shop for Your Home” and check out the supplier comparison chart. It lets you quickly compare suppliers based on pricing and whether they offer renewable energy.
  • In NJ, it’s a little more challenging. Start by going to http://www.state.nj.us/bpu(New Jersey Board of Public Utilities), selecting “Residential Customers,” and “Shop for Energy Suppliers.” Toward the bottom of the screen, under the heading “Third Party Suppliers in Your Area,” you’ll find a list of utility companies operating in NJ. Click your utility (such as JCP&L). You’ll be directed to a pdf with a list of energy suppliers in your area. Unfortunately, the list does not indicate whether a supplier offers renewables, so you’ll need to do a little research.

You can find more information on renewable energy, global warming and related issues at the following sites:

1In Bucks County, PA, PECO has been working to meet that requirement by offering PECO Wind. They say their investment (and yours, if you’ve been purchasing PECO Wind) helped foster a wind generation industry in PA. As of January 2013, PECO Wind will no longer be available, but you’ll be able to choose from a number of providers that offer wind and other renewables.

Please note that this blog post is based on independent research and does not represent an endorsement of any utility company or electricity supplier.

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