Sierra Club solicitation for green energy [Archive] - RetrieverTraining.Net - the RTF

: Sierra Club solicitation for green energy

Gerry Clinchy
09-17-2013, 12:27 PM
I just received in the mail a form, sent by the Sierra Club, which would allow me to sign up with my electric company to choose "green energy" at the small cost of just $8 more per month added to my utility bill.

It does not say if such "green" energy includes nuclear power (of which PA does have some), or just wind mills, water, solar. It tells me that each house using green energy will save 11,000 tons of greenhouse gasses each year.

Since PP&L probably has a couple of million customers, if 10% of them sign up, that's $800,000/month or a cool $9,6 million a year.

However, I don't know that PP&L has enough "green energy" sources to supply such green energy to each household that might sign up. Then where does the extra $ go? Does it go directly to my utility company to build such capacity? Or does the Sierra Club get a cut from that $8 to pursue it's green energy agenda? (which presumably include sending out more solicitations like this one).

Since PA has "electric choice" (allowing consumers to choose there own "generator" and "transmitter") for electricity), each electric company is required by law to share its customer list with any potential vendor for those services.

Looks like an unintended consequence to me ... a law that may be allowing the Sierra Club to lobby for its own agenda. BTW, the utility company already allows a customer to choose "green energy" on its bill each month, though I can't remember the amount/month that requires on the electric charge. So, I'm also wondering if this is, indeed, a way for those green energy subsidies to go to the Sierra Club instead of the utility company directly.

The Sierra Club may not realize that electric users in PA already saw a 30% increase in their electric costs as soon as electric choice came into being; and that $8/mo is about 10% additional for the user of 1000 KW a month. And they present this proposal at a time when real income for a lot of people has decreased in that same period of time.

09-17-2013, 01:05 PM

Most likely an enticement to get green energy introduced. It seems almost non-existent now.

09-21-2013, 05:26 AM
They have teamed up with the Tea Party in Georgia to promote choice in energy providers.

Gerry Clinchy
09-21-2013, 09:47 PM
Don't get too excited about how electric choice works ... it's still not a real marketplace.

Since the utility company that maintains the service in the area, any other energy generators only have to offer slightly less (usually 5% or 10%) than the service company. Even if they could offer you a better rate, they will not do so ... because they don't have to.

The service company must offer you electricity at the price for which they buy it. No mark-up allowed for them. Thus, they have no real incentive to comparison shop much. They used to have a special off-peak rate ... buying electricity at 2 am is about 3-4 cents/kwh; the price of buying it at peak hours (I think they said that was 1-3 pm) is about 14 cents/kwh or more. Since they can't just shut down a power plant overnight, there is alot of electricity being wasted. It's being generated, but nobody is using it.

I have a thermal storage unit which heats water in the middle of the night to back up my heat pump during the day (in winter). It was a great deal for me and the power company until "freedom of choice" came about. Now, since the power company can no longer make a profit on that overnight price break, that program is gone.

With the outside generation providers, the rate below the local service co. is only guaranteed for the first year :-) After that it can go up to the same rate as the service co. There are cancellation fees on some of them if you don't stay with them for "x" period of time ... which can wipe out any savings in a quick minute.

On top of that, the rates change every three months! This means you have to keep an eye on those rate changes to see if there is a time when you might wish to change providers of generation. It IS a PITA for the consumer. The electric bill is divided into 3 parts: distribution, the local company that maintains lines and service. The other two parts are transmission and generation ... the parts that are open to "choosing" a different provider for those items.

Meanwhile the state law also set rules for the amount of electric usage reduction a service provider had to meet by certain dates. If they don't meet those reductions, they will be assessed a fine! So, the service provider has various rebate programs for people who upgrade their heat pumps to more efficient ones ... and also for changing to a fossil fuel furnace! So, yup, you will use less electricity if you change from a heat pump to an oil furnace, sure enough! They also pay you $35 if you will let them haul away that old freezer or "extra" fridge in the garage or basement.

They also have a program for automatically limiting your central air unit during the summer. They would pay you something like $25 up front if you signed up. In peak draw periods, your AC unit would automatically turn off. Didn't work so well when it started this past summer ... people were SCREAMING when the program had them roasting in the heat wave. I heard they got it fixed ... but since I didn't sign up for it, I don't know how well that one works.

Just beware ... when the govt is involved with making the rules, they don't always turned out as you might hope. I, too, thought it sounded like a good idea on paper. Net result: electric rates went up 30% when "choice" started; more hassle for the consumer; and haven't yet seen any benefits.

The only thing I can say is that since electricity costs a lot more now, it did offer an incentive to be more observant of ways to use less of it. Things like keeping the thermostat lower in winter & higher in summer is one big savings. Lots of my neighbors burn wood or wood pellets for heating. Not sure that makes less CO2, though :-)

I do question whether the people who make these laws have done any conserving of energy themselves. When I was a kid, there was no electric dryer. Clothes hung out to dry. In cold months, you were likely to bring in clothes that could stand up by themselves until they thawed out. Many people worked long and hard to be able to afford these dryers that allow you to dry clothes rain or shine; and not have to let the laundry thaw out in winter. Now, we are being asked to regress our standard of living "for the greater good" ... while those who tell us to do this do not change their standard of living along with us. Does the WH have a laundry line? How many legislators have one? Obama is installing solar panels on the WH. Easy to do ... with taxpayer funds, but where is Michelle's laundry line?

As for solar, our elec company has a program for those who can afford to install some solar panels. You may think they have come down in price, but it would still cost me about $20,000 - to go solar. The electric company will give you back at night the excess you give them during the day ... and you get credited only the lower, overnight rate :-) ... You don't get to carry over any "overage" from day to day. So during the summer months you may actually be giving the elecric company some free electricity during the day (when it is most expensive), and getting it back at night when it is cheapest. The "smart meters" do all this stuff automatically.

And the electric company is still a monopoly with only a small nod to market "choice". It actually worked just as well as a regulated monopoly.

09-22-2013, 04:35 AM
No illusions here about government doing anything right. I just thought the Tea Party and Sierra Club working together is interesting and an unusual partnership, since the membership of each organization is probably at odds on just about every other issue.

One of my colleagues bought a solar system with the energy buy back and tax incentives intended to cover the cost. The system was about $100k. The government (we) paid for part of it using green energy tax credits, and he makes enough power to run his house and generate a surplus the electric company buys. I will be interested to ask him how year 2 is going.

Gerry Clinchy
09-22-2013, 08:43 AM
The HVAC contractor I often use in my real estate business, also put in a system that cost about that much for his own home. He is saving a bundle on his electricity bill for his 3000 SF home. His electric bill was running several thousand/year. I think the break-even point is about 10 years for him. He used a home equity loan to finance the system, so he will also get the interest deduction on his taxes for the HE loan.

There is a 30% income tax credit based on the cost (a credit against taxes owed, but capped by the amount of taxes). So, if the individual had a $100,000 tax bill that year (not counting SS/Medicare), he made out well in that regard. Our State also adds a rebate to that (but their funds are capped each year, and they often will run out of such funds early in each year since there are quite a lot of people who can afford the installation costs when they can reap big Fed tax credits, plus the state rebate.

BTW, the solar panels do have a lifespan of 20-25 years; about the same kind of lifespan as a fossil fuel furnace or heat pump. So, it is not a once-and-done proposition.

I just saw a bunch of new solar panels in a field at a local school. (a suburban/rural area that has extra open space around the central school complex that houses in 3 buildings all grades K-12). There is a special grant program for schools and municipal and counties who install such systems. That hasn't kept the school taxes from increasing each year.

Yes, it is interesting that Sierra Club and Tea Party have gotten together. It will be interesting to see how the coalition holds up long-term.