Opinion

Greenies can put money where their mouth is

LIKE IT IS

Normally, I dump any extraneous material sent along with my household bills without reading it, but the stuff from Puget Sound Energy caught my eye.

“Join the Green Power program,” one of the leaflets read, inviting me to contribute $4 or $8 a month to “green all my kilowatt electric usage per month,” making me someone who really cares about the environment.

Naturally, I really care about the environment, although not necessarily to the extent of paying an additional $4 or $8 on my power bill to help PSE provide to me electricity generated by wind, sun, hot springs, landfill gases, waves or tidal action, wastewater gas, qualified hydropower and biomass which comes from animal waste, wood and crops.

The first thing that occurred to me was why?

Why do I want or need to get my electricity in the future from any or all of what the power folks call renewable energy resources? I’m perfectly happy with what I get now, which I have always presumed was from hydropower or water.

True, says Andy Wapler of PSE, but there’s a a whole heckuva lot more people using that electricity now. Population of Washington state has gone from 4 million in 1982 to 6.5 million now. PSE can’t meet the demand without some additional renewable resources.

“A big screen TV uses more electricity than the old black and white,” he said. “The amount per person has increased. People have computers. Hydro has been decreasing as its slice of the pie that makes up the energy pool.”

Hydro today only provides 39 percent of PSE’s energy. Another factor. Coal-fired power plants can’t be built anymore because of environmental considerations. Green power is called that because it can be continuously supplied and doesn’t harm the environment. PSE has two wind farms in the state although they are not part of Green Power because they have already been built and paid for.

Out of PSE’s million-plus customers in the state, 21,000, including 900 businesses, have signed up for Green Power since it was mandated by the Legislature in 2001. RCW 19.29A.090 directed all electrical utilities with more than 25,000 customers to offer a voluntary program to those customers who would like to support regional renewable resources by investing the same. These 16 utilities were to report annually to two state agencies, Utilities and Transportation and Community, Trade and Development, how it was going.

It’s going pretty darn well, according to Wapler, and two of his cohorts who supplied me with information, Heather Mulligan and Rebekah Anderson. You can buy green power in blocs of 320 kilowatt hours of energy per month from renewable resources for $4 or $8 a month. If you’re a really dedicated greenie and want to buy 100 percent of your electricity from renewable resources, you can pay $0.0125 per kilowatt hour on all of your monthly electric charges.

The average monthly use by a PSE residential electric customer is 1,000 kilowatt hours. A household that uses 800 kilowatt hours per month will pay only $10 more by going 100 percent green. I’m not sure how PSE parcels out its Green Power investments in which resources, but I have faith in a company that sends out a whole bunch of guys out after horrendous snow or windstorms to restore power and doesn’t charge for it.

Green Power is a way for people who believe sufficiently in the threat of global warming to put their money where their mouth is. Many people, I’m told, are serious about reaching into their pocketbooks to help supply a cleaner and more reliable source of energy. If you’re one of them, you know where to turn.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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