Monday, February 16, 2009

Renewable Electricity for the Commonwealth


Just a quick post, with a quick "just do it" tip for our fellow Massachusetts residents: Often the challenges seem overwhelming and it's tough to know what one person can do to really make a difference. The differences we make will in large part be the result of many seemingly small (when viewed in isolation) actions. Of course these add up - in terms of each of our individual impacts, and our collective impacts, which eventually tip the system into a new state of being - hopefully one that is sustainable.

So here's an easy one: start buying renewable electricity. National Grid has the GreenUp Program, which gives a few options for ways to buy electricity produced from renewable sources. We went with New England Green Start 100% from Mass Energy (the "content label" link shows the exact breakdown -mostly small hydro, some biomass and a little solar and wind). It adds 2.4 cents per kwh - which is modest considering what you get, and totally worth it, and at the same time something we're constantly working to offset through cost-savings from demand-reduction (with energy efficient lighting and applicances, and lots of behavioral stuff - air drying clothes, powerstrips swithced off, lights off, etc. - on the efficient lighting check out these two recent blog posts on LEDs from Aedi Construction and Planet Blue Solutions - they're not just for stand-by lights anymore).

Most of us are generally familiar with the benefits by this point - avoiding the bad: GHG emissions, dependence on foriegn fossil fuels, the many problems with domestic fossil fuels (mountain top removal and fly ash slurry spills from coal, for example), volatile fossil fuel prices, finite supplies, health problems, etc... And promoting the good: living off abudant solar gain (in the form of solar electricity, solar thermal, wind, hydro, biomass), promoting local, resilient energy systems (which support healthy, resilient, local economies), stablizing costs, and driving down costs through scale.

That little little added cost per month is still there, of course - and aside from a fulfilling sense of doing the right thing, and the ability to reduce your carbon footprint, you don't see much direct benefit. But it's that's much more incentive to reduce your demand - and by sending a powerful message to the market, you'll be helping to shift the whole grid system to a clean future - answering the 10-year challenge to Repower America, and tackling a big piece of global SP1 violations. And as a final kicker, a portion of the extra cost is tax-deductible.

So sign up today! (and if you're not in mass, check out your utility company - most have these kinds of programs going - and if they don't you can buy some RECs, and help tighten the supply in those markets to push the development of more renewable generation facilities). Stay going.