Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Switching Electricity Suppliers in Pennsylvania: Go Green!

Green House Detectives
This post is by my friend Meenal Raval, and deals with the local challenge of picking a provider now that electricity is deregulated in PA.

It's Jan 1 and I finally decided to study electricity rates having heard for months about the PECO rate caps coming off. We've purchased PECOWind for years, choosing to pay an additional 2.54c per kWh for 100% wind, which ended up costing us about $86 per year. The plus to paying this
much more is that we got to take over 5000 lbs (or 2.3 tonnes) off our household's carbon footprint, which we'd still like to do in 2011.

On 12/27, Andrew Maykuth's article in the Inquirer titled Choosing Renewable Energy can now Save Money as well as Power, caught my attention. Highlights were:

  • Of the 19 electricity providers, only 7 offer a Renewable Energy Option
  • Of these 7, only 2 offer fixed 1-year pricing. One of them is The Energy Cooperative, a Philadelphia co-op since 1979
You can go to PAPowerswitch, a website by the PA Public Utility Commission, type in your zip code, and see all of the electricity suppliers for your region.

With the rate caps off, we need to compare not only the much-touted Generation & Transmission Charges but also the charges for Renewable Energy options.
  • PECO's price to compare, from dirty energy sources: coal and nuclear....9.92 cents per kWh
  • above plus 2.54 cents per kWh for PECOWind....12.46 cents per kWh
  • Viridian's "pure wind"....10.79 cents per kWh
  • The Energy Cooperative ("100% green; 87% hydro; 10% wind; 3% solar")....9.78 cents per kWh
  • BlueStar Energy Solutions "pure wind"....9.35 cents per kWh
Blue Star still comes out with the best rate for clean energy; it and the Energy Coop are still cheaper than PECO's "dirty" rate, so on a money-bottom line basis there is every reason for EVERY PECO user to switch to one of those two!

Reasons for choosing The Energy Cooperative = locally based; member owned.

Reasons for choosing Blue Star = even cheaper than The Energy Cooperative; no annual membership; fully wind (if you feel wind is cleaner than hydro, and more of an "additive" renewable resource). Note: "additive" means, that as more people buy into a particular renewable source, the Market will create MORE of that resource (more windmills erected, more solar panels installed, more hydro dams built, etc.) If it is non-additive, that means the supplier is simply yanking an already existing resource from somewhere else on the grid and appropriating it; no net shifting away from dirty sources is done.

I was asked... Is there a fee? Yes, The Energy Cooperative charges $15 to become a member.

And how guaranteed are the rates? Their rates are fixed for 1 year. After which, or actually, anytime during the year, one can always return to PECO's arms at no additional cost.

And what service area is covered? The electricity deregulation is for all of Pennsylvania, not just Philadelphia, so, yes, even Cheltenham township in Montgomery County.

Sorry if this is all confusing. This is the first time that renewable energy is actually cheaper than dirty energy. Bottom line, I think EITHER Energy Coop or Blue Star is a fine choice, and if you've made one of them don't work too hard to second-guess yourself.

I've just switched to the Energy Co-op's EcoChoice100, lowering my bill
by about 20%, still supporting 100% renewables. DO get one or two
neighbors/friends to switch over as well!


jr said...

hey, I found this company called Alphabuyer. They are like GroupOn for monthly bills. They have the best electricity rates. They also have natural gas which I have not seen. Check it out. http://www.alphabuyer.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this information is still relevant as of July 2011