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Green Power for Consumers

written by: Mayflor Markusic•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 7/23/2010

The green power initiative will have a considerable effect only if individual consumers and organizations take steps toward actually using green power to meet their energy needs. But how can consumers like you and me be sure that we're really buying green power?

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    Advantages of Green Power

    Green power is a general term used to describe electricity and heat energy that are produced from renewable energy sources and produced by processes that are more environment-friendly. Electricity from solar photovoltaic systems is called green power and also the energy from a car’s fuel cell is known as green power. The processes involved in generating power from alternative energy resources usually have a more benign environmental impact than using fossile fules such as coal and oil. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the use of one kilowatt-hour of green power prevents the entry of one pound of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Air pollution is just one of the environmental problems of using fossil fuels - photo by Mayflor Markusic 

    Aside from the major environmental benefit of using green power, there are other advantages to using green power. For example, with less pollution, people face lower risks in getting respiratory illnesses. Financially, the companies that use green power are less affected by the instability of ever increasing oil prices. The building of green power infrastructures can stimulate local and regional economies while the entire country need not rely on a vulnerable centralized energy system.

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    How to Buy Green Power in Your State

    Since there are several types of renewable energy resources that can be used to produce electricity, there are also several ways to buy green power. The first thing to consider is location. That is, should you buy green power from a power grid or should you consider having an onsite facility? The latter choice will require a higher investment but, in the long run, the benefits from lower energy production costs are greater. Large companies and individuals who own large tracts of land may want to have an onsite facility. Individuals living in cities and smaller companies with no area to spare for photovoltaic cells or windmills may opt for buying green power from a power grid. Windmills in Iowa - photo by Mayflor Markusic 

    When the decision is to buy green power from a power grid, the next step is to determine which of the renewable energy companies can provide the best option. One aspect to consider is the percentage of electricity that is produced from renewable energy sources. Some energy companies utilize renewable energy resources for as low as 10% of the total power they produced while other companies produce up to 80% of their power from alternative energy sources.

    Another aspect to consider is the cost of green power. Longer contracts with a renewable energy company usually entail lower costs. The consumer must also ensure that the contract indicated a fixed price with no fuel-cost adjustments. Paying for green power is not always cheaper than paying for conventional power produced by fossil fuels. When the price of oil is low, green power would be more expensive. But when the price of oil rises exponentially, green power becomes very affordable.

    What if your state has no supplier of green power? In this case, consumers should look into RECs or Renewable Energy Certificates. The REC, which is sometimes called the Green Tag, is one of the government’s renewable energy incentives. An energy company that produced one Megawatt-hour of electricity from a renewable energy source is credited with one REC. This REC is then sold to consumers, separate from the green power produced. The income generated from selling RECs will finance the building of more renewable energy plants. From the consumer’s perspective, buying an REC is not equivalent to paying for the electricity being consumed in the house. The REC is an investment that will increase the availability of green power.

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    Green Power Programs in Each State

    This is the list of of each state's available green power programs.. Click on your state's link to see the available options for purchasing green power.

    Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware; District of Columbia Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming