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Gerry Clinchy
11-17-2009, 10:00 AM
NY Times today:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/business/energy-environment/17power.html?th&emc=th


The solicitations have been flooding people’s mailboxes lately: pay a bit more on your electricity bill for 100 percent clean wind power. Or, the fliers say, buy “green power certificates” to offset your global warming (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) emissions.



One reason might be that they think the added expense is too high. Solar and wind power generally cost more than power generated with fossil fuels. While many people support alternative energy in principle, they personally may not want to spend hundreds of dollars more for electricity, especially in the current economic environment.



At least one major program has come under fire from regulators. Last year, a Florida Power and Light (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/fpl_group_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org) green power program, called Sunshine Energy, was terminated by the state’s Public Service Commission (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/public_service_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org) after an audit found that promised solar power (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/solar_energy/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) facilities were far behind schedule. The program had more than 38,000 customers, and was once the sixth-largest in the country, according to the renewable energy laboratory.
The audit also found that the vast majority of homeowners’ payments went into marketing and administration.



For example, the green power arm of a utility like Con Edison (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/consolidated_edison_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org), of New York, might sell green power to its customers, then buy certificates for that amount of power on the open market. Green power advocates argue that such payments help new facilities get built, though they acknowledge that other factors, like bank financing, may play more important roles.
Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables, a major developer, called the system of voluntary payments “an essential component of wind farm financing,” although he said that no particular Iberdrola project had been built just to supply the voluntary demand.


Early this year, the city government of Durango, Colo., stopped buying renewable power from its utility, saving $45,000 a year. The clean electricity had cost 40 percent extra — and the city manager, Ron LeBlanc, was irked that part of the payment went into putting solar panels on a school in a different city.
“Paying more and then investing in a community 16 miles away was offensive to a lot of us,” he said, adding that Durango was exploring other options to develop clean energy locally.




The utility has since slashed the prices, and Roger Duncan, its general manager, said that Austin Energy might change its program so that its green power costs for future projects are spread to all customers — not just the few who voluntarily pay extra.
“If we’re going to transition to renewable energy,” Mr. Duncan said, “you can’t depend on a small percent of the customer base to do this.”


Yes, I do believe that we need alternative energy solutions to reduce dependence on foreign oil. However, I'm not sure the mandatory govt interference is the way to get there. Obviously, there are several things that do not work ... including "buying green certificates" (IMO)