by Norm Farwell
Sometimes doing the right thing costs less too. Utility bills are a case in point. If you want your electricity cheap and clean and green, you have two options: install solar PV panels yourself, or sign up for a green “energy supply company” (ESCO for short) so that the power you buy over the grid comes from renewable sources. The first option is more complicated, but will probably save you more in the long run. The second option takes only a phone call or a few minutes online.
Until 1996, NYSEG billed customers for generating the power and also for transporting it. With deregulation, customers pay NYSEG for transmission but can choose from a range of energy suppliers. Most power suppliers buy from a mix of sources: coal, natural gas, nuclear, oil, etc. Some ESCOs, like Energy Cooperative of NY-Renewables, offers customers 100% renewable energy produced from wind, biomass, and hydroelectric sources and sell it at rates below what NYSEG charges for the fossil fuel version.
This might seem like a useless bit of paperwork, except for one thing– generating electricity is really dirty business. About two thirds of the energy used to generate electricity from fossil fuel is lost before it even gets to anyone’s house – up the smokestack, through the wires, etc. This means that your 95% efficient water heater is probably less than 30% efficient when you consider the big picture. So it makes sense to put in those curly light bulbs, buy energy star appliances, plug electronics into a smart power strip, and generally use as little of the precious stuff as possible.
After you’ve done all that, you can unplug from the dirty grid and switch to renewable electricity. For Energy Cooperative of NY-Renewables, go to www.ecny.org or call them at 716- 842-1697 and switch to the “renewable electric” program. There are other green energy suppliers as well – the list is at www.askpsc.com. Look for the link to New York’s Green Power Program.