Should You Pay a Premium for Renewable Energy? 

renewable energy

Today’s big idea is that how you power the lights, the heat, the cooling, the devices, and all the electronic doo dads in your home is one of your biggest levers for either contributing to climate change, or steering us away from it. It seems like the power lines come into your house and there’s not a lot of say that you have over that but that is not the truth. You can opt to have power delivered to your home over those very same wires that is generated from nearby solar farms, or wind farms, or perhaps even the heat that’s deep in the earth. And all it generally takes is filling out an online form or a simple phone call to a renewable energy company and they will work it out with your regular provider. 

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But first, why would you want to do this? 

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, which is part of the UN, using renewable energy is the most cost‑effective way of providing 90% of the required reduction in energy‑related carbon dioxide emissions to alleviate climate change. 90%–that’s a lot.

The hitch is that this renewable energy typically costs more than the regular old coal or natural gas powered energy. So today I wanted to break down this question of whether or not it’s worth it to pay more for renewable energy. I mean, who wants to pay MORE for electricity?? It already feels like it costs too much, am I right? 

Well, that cost may not be as high as you might think

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average additional cost for a household to participate in a green power program is about $200 a year. That’s just shy of $17 a month.  For many of us, that is totally doable. I’m guessing you could go through your credit card statement and find a subscription to something that you aren’t using that would free up that $17 pretty easily. 

In addition to making an important contribution to reducing carbon emissions, and proving that there is demand for renewable energy, paying a little more for your power will help you be more conscious of how you use it. You could even eliminate that extra $17/month just by being more careful about turning off lights and keeping your house a couple degrees cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer. 

In addition to reducing carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, transitioning to renewable energy helps our power grid be more stable. Remember when the power went out in Texas this past winter? And many people were slapped with a monthly power bill that was thousands of dollars? The outages happened because the grid, which relies on a handful of power plants, got overloaded. And those sky high bills happened because traditional power is often priced according to demand. So when you need it the most, it also costs the most.

But there is not nearly as much fluctuation in generating power from wind, the sun, or the heat of the earth

Because these are all unlimited resources. Every hour, enough sunlight hits the Earth to power the entire globe for a year. A year! In one hour. This means those extra $17 a month more like insurance against price gouging and a fragile power grid that becomes vulnerable in times of high demand. 

Since renewable energy creates good, stable, decent paying jobs, from planning, construction, sales, and service, those $17 also help out people in your local community who are looking for work. 

It may seem like green energy is a risky bet because it’s a fringe player. A David compared to fossil fuel’s Goliath, but the tide is already turning. In fact, today, renewable energy supplies more power to America’s grid than coal.

My contribution to renewable energy is that we have solar panels on our home

(I give my husband total credit on spearheading this. He is obsessed with clean energy.) There are a lot of little decisions to make in order to get solar panels. Like, do you want to own the panels or lease them? Do you want to send your power back to the grid or store it in batteries in your own home, that you could use as backup if the power goes out? We own our panels but financed them. So long as there is an outstanding balance the panels are warrantied so that if they stop working the company will replace them. And we send our energy back to the grid, which our power company pays us for. They send us a direct payment to our bank account. We also get a discount off our power bill.

So while we pay $84 every month for the panels, we get paid anywhere between $25 and $100. And then get a similar amount of money taken off our power bill, so over the course of a year they pay for themselves. (Although they generate a lot less power during the winter months, so we don’t end up recouping our costs in those months). I just love walking through our neighborhood and seeing the patchwork of solar panels on everyone’s roofs and knowing that we are helping Rhode Island wean off fossil fuels. 

Of course, you don’t have to get solar panels on your roof. You can also elect to have your home be powered by renewable energy–it can be as simple as signing up with a provider, such as Arcadia Power, or whoever is available in your local market, who will then handle the nitty gritty details with your primary power provider. 

I hope hearing this episode will help you decide that it’s worth it to make the switch to renewable energy

Yes, there’s a bit of expense, and a little figuring out to do. But isn’t our beautiful home planet and the future of your family and our extended family of all people creatures and plants and microbes who share our planet worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. 

Come back tomorrow when I am talking to regenerative gardening expert Emily Murphy about how your windowsill, or stoop, or yard, can be a huge contributor to the health of our soil, our air, our food supply, pollinators and wildlife. I don’t care what color your thumb is, Emily will get you psyched to grow something. 

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