Monday, April 09, 2007

O Quandary, Thy Name Is Electricity

I have been a Green Mountain Energy (GME) subscriber since before meeting GreenDaddy. I love getting the monthly bill that tells me that by using 404 Kilowat hours of wind electricity, I have saved 593 pounds of C02 Emissions from being released into the atmosphere -- the equivalent of 659 automobile miles not driven.

But in the excavation of our energy costs, it turns out we're paying a lot of money for the 100% wind energy. The average amount we pay, per month, is 17.2¢ KWh. If we went for the cheapest power company in Houston, we'd be paying about 11.2¢ KWh -- a difference of upwards of $40 per month or $480 a year.

So it feels good not dumping coal into the atmosphere, and bad thinking about how GME claims to cost the same as Reliant, the region's major power source. The truth is, there is no energy in Houston that costs as much as 100% wind from Green Mountain. I went to GME's website to research what was going on, and realized the deal that costs the same as Reliant is not 100% wind energy derived: it is 90% water/dam energy and 10% wind. Both are renewable energy sources, unlike coal, and if you sign up for a year contract, this plan is 14.3¢ kWh.

I would prefer dams to coal, but still. I hail from Utah, the land of many incredible, historic, unusual canyons erased forever by dams -- usually created to create recreational lakes. I grew up reading Edward Abbey. Dam energy isn't the renewable source I prefer...though, it certainly helps the budget out.

As a last resort to using dammed water, I sought out other electric companies in the area using 100% wind, thinking I wouldn't find any. But it turns out there are a few 100% wind plan offers including:

Commerce Energy: 14.8¢ kWh
Reliant: 15.4¢ KWh
Spark: 13.7¢ KWh

So my quandary is this:

I think:

Aren't these companies able to offer a reduced 100% wind rate because the majority of their sales are from coal, and the coal energy people offset the price of my wind?
Isn't it because of companies like GME, who invest money in alternative energy technologies, that these traditional providers are entering the green market?

And at the same time...Isn't it the goal of green energy to induce the mainstream providers to include green options...and eventually, to offer soley the green? So shouldn't I let these 'dirty' companies know I value their green options?

And at the same time...Shouldn't I support GME, who invests in soley green technologies. If they go out of business, what incentives do the others have to keep providing green solutions?

And at the same time...Shouldn't GME figure out a way to be more competitive in this market?

I don't know what to do. I do know we need to spend less on electricity. Of course, we're going to work on making the house itself more efficient, but I also want an efficient energy company.

So I'm trying to decide between 100% wind energy, my preferred energy source, from Spark and 100% renewable energy, mostly dammed water based, from my preferred provider GME.

Anybody have any information that might tip the scales of my indecision one way or the other?


iwanagain said...

Good luck with your quandary. At least these are things you think about, something too few people (strangely, especially parents) seem willing to do. I saw your post on Gristmill and wanted to let you know I admire your site and was intending to seek your expertise in matters of diapering.
This issue of money and parenting is something I think about often. My family also seems to struggle with matters of money (we are in a one-income household) in terms of green living and makes something as simple as joining a CSA a real dilemma.
Anyway, you have an amazing site.

chuck said...

"usually created to create a recreational lake." lovely!

kayte said...

i really love the title of this post.