Green Energy Choice

Problem: Despite strong public support for renewable energy, Utah ranks near the bottom of all Western states for renewable energy production. Unfortunately, there's no way to translate the popularity of green energy into more production of green energy.

Many of us are willing to pay more money for wind or solar or geothermal power, but we can't. We have no choice in the energy marketplace.

There's Blue Sky, which is a good program, but it goes to subsidize small-scale projects, not to change the actual power that we're buying. Buy all the Blue Sky credits you want in Utah, and you're still paying for dirty coal power on most of your bill.

It would be like if you wanted to pay more for organic produce, or to send your kid to private school, but weren't allowed to.

Solution: Green Energy Choice

Fortunately, innovative thinkers and activists across the country have used the concept of creating large green energy buying clubs so that power customers who want green power can get it.

Green Energy Choice allow communities or groups of communities to pool their electricity demand in order to purchase power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipalities. Six states—California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island—allow this kind of pooling (also called "Community Choice Aggregation" or CCA). The best example is in Marin County, Calif., where, via Marin Clean Energy, residents can choose to buy 50 or 100 percent renewable energy. The idea of the program, according to our 2012 Breakfast speaker Megan Matson, is it allows consumers to use the power of the marketplace to boost renewable energy, reduce their carbon footprint, slash dangerous emissions from coal power and create green jobs locally. And they do all that at a rate just slightly higher than they were paying before.

Marin’s success scared their local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric. After PG&E tried to defeat this effort -- via a failed state-wide ballot initiative -- Matson and a few others founded a new nonprofit to help "spread the gospel" about the power of this kind of community energy purchasing. It's called LEAN Energy.

And while passing legislation so that Utahns can establish Green Energy Choice will be a challenging and multi-year project, we think it’s firmly within the realm of possibility. We’ll be asking Legislators to allow individuals to choose energy that both powers our economy and protects our health and environment.

Just last year, landmark legislation gave big industrial energy users this very choice in Utah, in what was known as the ebay bill. In the words of the Republican bill sponsor, some people want organic tomatoes and are willing to pay a little more—shouldn’t Utah families have that same kind of choice when it comes to energy? 

You’ll be hearing a LOT more from HEAL in the coming months about how we can all work together to fight for Green Energy Choice. If you haven't done so already, sign up on our email list to stay informed!