|Investing in renewable energy sources
"It's called green power," Bolding says,
"but you're not actually getting that power. What you're getting
is the green. That is, you own that kilowatt-hour of green energy.
You're not guaranteed that it's being delivered straight to your
home, but it is being delivered to the grid."
While there's no savings -- it's more of an investment
in the planet -- the plan gives participants a foot soldier's role
on the environmental battlefield.
"Consumers can pick and choose, and many plans
offer choices such as going 50-50 instead of 100 percent,"
Bolding says. "Some dealers also sell packages where you can
buy a block of, say, 100 kilowatt-hours for $65."
Those without that option can offset their energy
use by purchasing tradable
renewable certificates, sold nationally by independent providers.
These certificates represent a trade-off of power
on the national grid from nonrenewable sources to power from renewable
sources. Many large corporations such as FedEx Kinkos, Staples,
Johnson & Johnson and Pitney Bowes choose this alternative,
Bolding says, "either for the public-relations value, or because
they have an environmental mission."
The Center for Resource Solutions plays a major role
in all this by ensuring that consumers get what they pay for through
a voluntary renewable energy certification program.
"Renewable energy can qualify for certification
if it meets our requirements," says Bolding. "Utility
companies and independent providers apply to have us certify that
everything they buy is delivered into the grid in the same quantity
and content. We also check all their marketing materials to see
that they are actually selling what they are promoting."
The cost of going green is "just hard to nail
down," Bolding says. For openers, she says, "the cost
of renewable energy varies on the type you buy." Solar is far
more expensive than landfill
gas or wind, and is not as cost-competitive.
Still, Bolding says, "wind and solar are the
sexiest, so people want to buy them."
Over time, the cost of fossil fuels may play the largest
role in the average person's decision to jump on the green bandwagon.
Right now U.S. citizens spend $160 billion a year to run their appliances,
stay warm or cool and light their homes, according to the federal
Environmental Protection Agency.
While the gap between green and traditional energy
sources is narrowing, Richarme says, it's obviously going to take
the participation of a lot more people to make a difference.
"Lacking federal incentives," he says, "it
will take a major life change such as buying a new house" before
the average consumer will consider a change to using alternative