should we switch to a green energy provider?
April 22, 2008 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Should I have our small business switch to a third party green energy provider? We had a salesman for Accent Energy come to our door and he was a bit shady so I told him that I wanted to look into this on my own time. But from what I'm reading online it could be a great way to convert to a more environmentally responsible energy solution. And its Earth Day today too. Our company wants to do what we can to be "green" and we would even pay slightly more to do so, but if a switch to a third party will cost three times as much then we just cant do it.

I apologize if theres a post covering this that I missed, but I couldn't find anything besides this posting and they focus on hydro-power in Ontario. So my question is, has anyone here in New York made the switch to a third party like Accent or one of the other green providers that work with Con Ed? Did you choose fixed rate or fluctuating rate? How much did it change your bill? I wish they would provide more of this concrete information on their websites, and the fact that they dont makes me feel like it may be a bad move. But I want to help reduce our impact! Help!
posted by minicloud to Work & Money (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I signed up for this without doing too much research on it, and I still haven't done too much research on it, but I do know that I am not only charged for the actual energy (gas and electric) from the third party provider, I am also charged by ConEd for "delivery" charges. I haven't gotten annoyed enough with it yet to change back to just ConEd, but I have a vague feeling that I'm getting screwed.
posted by Grither at 8:50 AM on April 22, 2008

Whether green power schemes are useful in actually increasing environmental benefits or not depends on a number of factors. One key factor is how renewable energy is supported by regulation where you live. In the US, the main subsidy support tends to be renewable portfolio standards on top of a federally mandated tax credit. The RPS means that all supply companies (i.e. the companies that buy electricity from generators and sell it to consumers) have to pay to get a certain fraction of their electricity from renewables, this is then passed on to their consumers. If they can get away with it, companies may try to sell the idea of green power to consumers then pass on some of the additional costs associated with the RPS to those signing up for the green power schemes, helping to defray costs they would otherwise be legally obliged to pay anyway. If this is the case then you paying the extra implies no real benefit in terms of additonal deployment of renewable generators and thus no additional environmental benefit. I.e. you'd be paying the extra to help the company with its profits. I don't know whether this is the case in NY or not.

Even if something like this was going on, one option for the company charging the premium would be to put aside the premium and contribute it to assisting in supporting the development of new capacity. The fact that the GoGreen programme gets its electricity from dams in New York state would normally make me suspicious they were just getting power from old dams which would have been sold anyway, with no attendant mitigation of carbon emissions from a fossil fuel power station. However, NY state has apparently been funding new hydro as well as wind power so there is some possibility that you might end up contributing to new capacity. I'd need more information from the power company to be sure of what was actually happening. My experience with UK companies is they tend to be quite obtuse about giving you a clear picture of what is actually happening to the money they get from their green power schemes. I have been told (by the chief exec of a power company) the main reason they like them is because as well as the fact they look good, green consumers are also cheap to pick up in terms of advertising revenue spend per consumer and tend to be more 'sticky' than ordinary consumers, i.e. they stick with one company more than other consumers.

To summarise, you may do some good by going to green power but you can't be sure unless you really know what you're looking for.

There's some more info on green power in NY at this Public Service Commission page.
posted by biffa at 9:21 AM on April 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

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