Stepping towards a Better Environment – Converting to Clean Elect
By: Laura Kosbar
While many of the changes you may need to make to reduce your carbon footprint – such as getting a more fuel efficient or electric vehicle, upgrading your heating/cooling systems, or upgrading appliances – may take some planning and/or initial cash outlay, converting your electricity to “clean” generation sources is easy, quick, can even save you money – and you can do it today!
What is “clean” electric power?
“Clean” electric power is generated from sources that do not produce carbon dioxide (CO2 ) such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and nuclear power. Some renewable sources, such as burning biomass, release carbon that was already part of the existing carbon cycle. Non-clean sources include burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Natural gas and is often claimed to be a “cleaner” fossil fuel because it emits less CO2 than coal, but the methane that is released during extraction and transportation has at least 25 times the impact on climate change than an equivalent amount of CO2 .
Across the US in 2019 over 60% of electricity was generated from fossil fuels, about 20% from nuclear, and less than 18% was from renewable sources. Over 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent was emitted just for electricity generation in 2018!
Where does your electricity come from and how can you choose clean power?
Our local power comes from a range of power generation sources including coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable sources. About 70% of the power provided by Consolidated Edison (Con Ed), for example, is generated from burning fossil fuels.
Fortunately, you have several ways to choose cleaner sources of electricity.
1. What you can do convert to clean electricity today: New York state allows you to choose who supplies the electricity you need. You can directly select the Energy Services Company (ESCO) that generates the electricity, and many will supply you with 100% clean electricity. To select an ESCO, start by going to “NYS Power to Choose” at http://documents.dps.ny.gov/PTC/home. If you enter your location and “view electric”, you can see all of the ESCO’s available to you, including the amount and type of renewable energy they supply, and information on current and historical pricing. There are presently over 30 ESCOs available with Con Ed and over 20 with NYSEG that use 100% renewable generation. If you click on the name of the ESCO, it will take you to their website where you can sign up. This will guarantee that the amount of electricity you use is generated from renewable sources. In many cases, however, the costs to you for clean power may be higher than from your current supplier, but you will be reducing your “cost” impact on the environment.
2) What you can do to convert to clean energy within months: If you do not have solar panels on your property, you can sign up with a “community solar” project. These projects install solar panels in nearby locations and allow residents to get some of the benefits of solar panels even if they can’t or don’t choose to install them themselves. If you participate, a portion of the energy produced by that project – equivalent to your typical power consumption – provides credits towards your electric bill. These credits can save you as much as 10% of your total electric bill. There is currently a project in Croton with Ecogy Energy, which should be followed by two more in Yorktown over the coming year. To find out about other community solar projects available in Westchester, go to Solarize Westchester . The capacity of these programs is limited, and generally you will be signing up for a project that is still months away from coming online. You can sign up now for both a 100% renewable ESCO and a community solar project so that you are always assured that you are getting clean energy.
3) Longer term option to convert to clean energy: You can install solar panels on your roof or property to meet most or all of your required electricity. We will feature a separate article in the future providing advice if you choose this route. It is often the best choice from a financial standpoint, but it involves more planning, initial investments, and is not suitable for all locations.
No matter what you choose, your electricity will still be delivered to your house via your current electric provider. They (Con Ed or NYSEG in this area) will maintain your electric lines, repair outages, monitor your usage, and still send out your bills. But, by signing up for 100% renewable energy generation, you will effectively eliminate your carbon footprint for your home electric usage. Not bad for a little time spent on your computer!
Yorktown100 is a 100% volunteer group of neighbors working to reduce our carbon footprint by 5% a year through various programs. Contact us if you would like to learn more, or would like to join. We welcome new members! Visit us at https://yorktown100.org/ and help make a difference.