On August 3, the Obama administration released new regulations that will lead to a significant cut in U.S. carbon emissions. The regulations require existing electrical generating plants to cut emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. The new rule will decrease our reliance on coal as a source of fuel to produce electricity, and increase the use of cleaner sources of power, especially wind and solar. States will each come up with a plan to achieve their emission reduction goals, and those states that are unable or unwilling to come up with their own plan may rely on a plan developed by the federal government.
Full implementation is a long way off. There will be lawsuits and foot-dragging by some elements of the power industry, the president’s political opponents, and states opposed to the president’s plan.
If you live in live in a state with consumer choice in electricity, you can help give your state a head start. Electricity deregulation has brought into the market dozens of clean power providers. You can buy from one of these providers, and cut yourself off from reliance on electricity generated by sources that produce carbon emissions.
I live in Maryland, and for several years now, I have been buying electricity from a supplier that offers me 100 percent wind-generated electricity. It was surprisingly easy to switch. Yet, talking to my environmentally-conscious friends, I find that many of them are not even aware that they have a choice.
It is easy to switch. All that is involved is just a little bit of time spent researching your options and filling out a form or two on the Web—no need to invest in solar panels or doing anything more complicated than a few clicks of the mouse.
I encourage you to look in to it. Below and in the next two articles, I will tell you how to get started.
First, you need to find out if your state offers consumer choice in electricity. One placed to start is the website of the American Coalition of Energy Suppliers. There is a clickable map of U.S. states that will tell you whether you have choice in purchasing electric power in your state.
As of this writing, the following states allow consumer choice: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Texas. Often, choice is limited to the customers of certain utilities and certain other restrictions may apply, so read the information available for your state to see what your options are.
In addition, the following states allow choice for commercial, industrial, or non-residential consumers: California, Georgia, Oregon, and Virginia. Again, choice may be limited to the customers of certain utilities, and other restrictions may apply.
With the information about your state’s electric choice status are links where you will continue your exploration. Among other resources, there will be a link to your state’s Public Service Commission. (It has a different name in different states—for example, “the Board of Public Utilities” in New Jersey.) For some states, there are links to energy shopping websites—“Power to Choose” in New York, for example.
In the next installment of this blog, I will run through the sign-up process, using my state of Maryland as an example.
A version of this post was originally written for the Big Green Purse, by Diane MacEachern. It has been updated. Photo credit: Flickr user Jason under the creative commons license.