Buying green energy in New York State

As always, the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use – the “negaWatts!” There are myriad ways you can dramatically reduce your electricity use without compromising your lifestyle. In addition to reducing your electricity use, though, you can buy clean, “green” electricity for the electricity you do use – or even create your own.

Create your own electricity

Some congregations and individuals can create their own electricity with a wind or solar installation. Yes, New York State has surprisingly good solar potential! In fact, when you generate more electricity than you use – which can happen on a sunny summer day – your meter can actually run backwards (if you’re tied into the grid). NYSERDA has more information about generating your own power naturally.

Purchase green energy

People in New York State now have true energy choice when purchasing energy. We can choose “green” renewable energy, not just a different energy supplier.

Churches, which fall in the “Residential” category when choosing energy suppliers, can choose to purchase various mixes of wind, small hydro, and biomass or even 100% wind – the pollution-free choice.

In most parts of NYS, either individuals or congregations can easily purchase “green” energy through their usual energy supplier. For example, individuals or congregations in Central New York would simply sign up for a green energy supplier through National Grid’s GreenUp program. Other utilities have similar programs.

How does this work?

New York’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal is to have 25% of our energy be “green” by 2013. However, the state already has close to 19% hydro power, so the new, incremental power needed is about 6%. One percent of that 6% is designated to come from voluntary purchases. That’s where we come in! The 5% remaining is funded by a very small levy on people’s utility bills.

Need more detailed information? You can find out about the details specific to New York State on the Union of Concerned Scientists website.

Electricity is electricity is electricity?

NO! There are significant differences in the amount of pollution and global warming emissions produced by different power companies.

Each company is required to provide an Environmental Disclosure Statement so you can compare fuel sources and emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon dioxide relative to the average. Find out the facts about choices available to you at PowerScoreCard.org.

Here’s an example

This is just a sample of the kind of information you can get from Power Score Card. Learn more about each of the following impacts and compare the choices available in your area by going to PowerScoreCard.org.

Community Energy, Inc.
100% New Wind Energy
Community Energy, Inc.
Wind and Water Power
National Grid (Niagara Mohawk)
Utility Service
New York System Mix
NEW RENEWABLES:
New Renewable Rating Excellent Very Good Unacceptable Unacceptable
New Renewable Content 100.0% 60.0% 0.0% 0.0%
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS:
Environmental Impact Rating Excellent Very Good Unacceptable Unacceptable
Environmental Impact Score 0.1 1.8 8.9 7.9
Component Environmental Impact Ratings:
Climate change Excellent Excellent Good Fair
Acid rain Excellent Excellent Very Good Good
Ozone (smog) and fine particulates Excellent Excellent Fair Fair
Air toxics (mercury) Excellent Excellent Excellent Very Good
Water use Excellent Good Unacceptable Unacceptable
Water quality Excellent Good Unacceptable Poor
On-site land impacts Excellent Fair Unacceptable Unacceptable
Off-site land impacts Excellent Fair Unacceptable Unacceptable
PRICE:
Price2 (cents per kWh) 19.5 19.9 17.0

“But my supplier has cleaner than average emissions.”

Your electricity supplier may indeed have fewer emissions than the “average” electricity, but this isn’t the whole story.

Nuclear power, for example, may produce fewer of the emissions reported in the Environmental Disclosure Statement, but it has other costs: financial, waste product disposal, and security downsides. And when the health of people and the planet are considered, can we be willing to settle for “good enough?”

You can purchase renewable energy through these utilities:

If your utility doesn’t offer a renewable energy choice…

If your utility doesn’t offer a renewable energy choice (or if you choose not to purchase one of the available renewable energy options), you can purchase Green Tags through NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group). For more information…

Remember: The total cost of your energy is more than just money

The price you pay each month is only part of its true cost. Consider also the cost of children ill with asthma or other respiratory diseases, the cost of heart attacks due to power plant pollution, and the costs of global warming and other damage to our environment.

Can we afford it?

When you choose clean renewable energy you’re substituting cleaner energy for the current polluting energy subsidizing increased production of clean energy, i.e. providing money to build additional wind turbines.

These renewable energy choices also mean that you’re paying a surcharge on top of your current electricity cost.

In these times of tight budgets, at first it might seem foolish to spend more on energy than what’s absolutely necessary to keep the building habitable. But is it really foolish for congregations to actively promote energy that doesn’t cause acid rain or smog? That doesn’t cause health problems, especially for children and adults? That doesn’t contribute to further climate change?

Many congregations (here’s one in Central New York) and judicatories are making this stewardship commitment to justice – justice for people today, justice for future generations, and justice for all of God’s creations – human and nonhuman.

How-to

One way to pay for the slight additional cost is to conserve energy and make energy-efficient improvements in your physical plant.

Many programs give excellent advice on ways you can save a lot of energy and money – money that then can be used to purchase renewable energy. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can save – and once you have paid for these energy upgrades, these savings occur year after year after year.

Another solution is to ask your congregation’s members to make a special contribution toward this purchase.

Your church might also hold fund-raisers to earn money toward this project. Perhaps the youth of the congregation can participate. After all, they and their children will be the generations most dramatically affected by climate change.