Clean Power to Your Home: Cost and Benefits (Part III)

WindEmissionsReport

In two previous posts, I talked about how easy it is to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources if your state offers consumer choice in electricity. The first post told you how to find out if your state offers consumer choice, and how to get started in choosing your electricity. The second post in this series walked you through the process of switching.

Here I will review the cost compared to what I would pay if I let Pepco choose my electric supply for me, and what would be my power mix if I did not switch.

My electric supplier is WGL Energy—formerly Washington Gas Energy Services. They were an early supplier of green energy options, and I learned about them several years ago at the Washington Green Festival.

My latest contract was renewed at 12.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, increasing a bit from last year’s 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. (You can probably do better if you are newly switching, as companies offer enticing prices for new customers.) On my last bill, covering late June/early July (a hot stretch in which our A/C got a workout), I was charged for 744 kilowatt-hours. WGL charged me 11.8 cents x 744 kilowatt-hours = $87.79. At the time, the standard issue service cost 9.14 cents per kilowatt-hour. (Standard issue service cost actually fluctuates slightly between summer and winter months.) My extra cost was $19.79 for the month.

For that, I am getting 100 percent wind-generated electricity, and the carbon emissions from electricity I am buying is zero. The fuel mix for standard offer service, as of the last time it was calculated for Pepco customers, is coal (43.5 percent), followed by nuclear power (34.7 percent) and natural gas (17.5 percent). Only 4 percent is generated from renewable sources. That $19.79 for the month is my environmental premium with WGL. The price of Standard Offer Service goes up and down, as does the price of wind power (though you are protected from price fluctuations for the length of your contract, if you have a fixed-price contract).

While today you will pay slightly more for choosing wind power, the price difference between wind and other sources is decreasing and will continue to decrease. According to a new Department of Energy report (highlights here), installed wind capacity grew 8 percent from 2013 to 2014—to a total of 65.9 gigawatts. Newly installed wind capacity since 2007 represented a third of all new electrical generating capacity in the U.S. Power companies were able to buy wind power for 2.35 cents per kilowatt-hour, a 66 percent decline from the price in 2009. Wind turbines are becoming more efficient, and their manufacturing costs are going down. This will further drive down the price of wind.

The Obama administration’s clean power plan will further stimulate the growth of wind and other alternative power sources, as states try to meet their clean power targets. In the meantime, we can speed the transition to carbon-free or reduced carbon fuel by purchasing electricity now from providers that offer clean energy choices. It’s really easy.

Questions? Corrections? I’d love to encourage as many people as possible, if your state permits, to exercise the option to buy clean energy. Leave a comment below.

A version of this post was originally written for the Big Green Purse, by Diane MacEachern. It has been updated.