Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sustainable municipal power

It's not everything, but it is one thing. I've signed us up for CleanPowerSF, the municipal program that seeks to deliver cleaner (less fossil fuel-derived) electricity to San Francisco residential consumers.

By aggregating San Francisco’s demand for energy, CleanPowerSF leverages this demand to generate and source cleaner energy that protects the environment and supports our local economy. CleanPowerSF offers cost-effective, cleaner energy alternatives for your homes and businesses. Because CleanPowerSF is not-for-profit, ratepayer funds will be reinvested locally in energy efficiency programs and new renewable energy facilities.

... CleanPowerSF generates more of your electricity from cleaner, renewable resources, like solar and wind. Our GREEN product contains 35% renewable energy, for your home or business, sourced principally from Bay Area wind energy projects. This cleaner energy will continue to be delivered to you by PG&E.

Being a mildly suspicious type, I turned to the environmental publication Grist to find out whether this was a scam. According to what I found, cleaner power consists of something called a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC).

... RECs are indeed a totally legit way to support the development of greener, cleaner energy. Let me explain.

All electricity, whether it comes from a solar panel, hydroelectric dam, nuclear power plant, or coal, looks exactly the same once it gets dumped into our national energy supply, aka the grid ... Now, REC providers don’t actually change where your electricity comes from. Instead, they pay a third company ... to generate electricity. ... it’s a nifty system for several reasons. For one, it lets you financially support green energy projects even if you don’t have them in your neck of the woods. It helps make the overall energy mix in the grid cleaner. And it allows you to completely offset your personal electricity footprint by replacing any carbon-emitting power you suck from the grid with new electricity derived from renewable sources.

Since this is a new business, Grist suggests that we check any offer of "clean energy" against a third party verification site, Green-E. And CleanPowerSF is certified; apparently our offset will be 100% wind power.

CleanPowerSF is a joint state/city/utility program, part of California's ambitious sustainability efforts. I like that. Individual efforts aren't going to solve fossil fuel pollution; we're going to have to make society-wide efforts to have a chance. And the simpler we can make it for people to help out, the better. When fully implemented, San Franciscans will have to affirmatively opt out to avoid clean power! RECs may be available from private vendors in other places. Check the Green-E site.

Here's a simple video which does a pretty good job of explaining about RECs.

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