Sunday, July 15, 2007

Day Twenty-One - A Long-Winded Post

Changing My Energy Supplier

This is one of those changes that is super-easy to do and can have a really big impact. I like these ones and I hope you do too. To learn more about where our energy comes from and the different types of energy available, check out this article by Environmental Defense. If you're too lazy to read the whole thing, I'll hit some hightlights below for you ;-)

Conventional electricity sources include coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas, and large hydropower facilities. These sources supply about 99% of the electricity used in the United States today. Many of these sources of energy would not be economically competitive if we were to pay their full costs, including damage to the environment and human health, security risks, and long- term storage costs. These costs are borne by society, but are not reflected in our energy bills. They are paid for in other ways: higher health insurance premiums and defense expenditures, and long-term depletion of resources. Incorporating these external costs into the price of energy to give consumers accurate information on the true costs of energy is one of the most important challenges in creating a sustainable energy future.

My personal supplier of electricity is Dominion Power. I did some research and found that their energy source is mainly coal and nuclear. In fact, Dominion is spreading across the US, and is planning three new coal-fired power plants, one in Virginia, one in Ohio, and a mega-plant in an undisclosed location. And here I am supporting them just by turning on my lights and air conditioning. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Or is there?

Did you know that you due to energy de-regulation you can pick where your energy comes from? Yes, it's true! The US Department of Energy has a very user-friendly website that lest you click on your state to find companies that offer "green power" in your state. The results will include utility green pricing programs, retail green power products offered in competitive electricity markets, and renewable energy certificate (REC) products.

When I clicked through I was shown that PEPCO Energy Services offers two different types of green power - landfill gas or new wind. I've always been a big fan of windmills (call me the Anti-Don Quixote) so clickety-click-click and now my energy comes from a beautiful windfarm on the Chesapeake. Neat, huh? No more coal-burning and nuking for me!


Ahh, my favorite, geek part of the blog. Considering my energy use over the past twelve months was, on average, 1,002 kWh per month.

The electricity generated per ton of coal is 0.4 x 6,150 kWh or 2,460 kWh/ton. (Yes, I love "How Stuff Works"!) To find out how many tons of coal were burned for our light bulb we divide 1,00 kWh by 2,460 kWh/ton. That equals 0.4073 tons. Multiplying by 2,000 pounds per ton we get 814 pounds of coal. That is a pretty big pile of coal, but let's look at what else was produced to provide that electricity.

Sulfur Dioxide - Main cause of acid rain - 5 pounds
Nitrogen Oxides - Causes smog and acid rain - 5.1 pounds
Carbon Dioxide - Greenhouse gas suspected of causing global warming - 1852 pounds

Difficulty Level - 1 out of 5

Again, the research took more time than the signing up, at least the PEPCO form I used was quick. I won't see any change in my delivery system or billing, just a small change in price ($0.10 kWh vs. $0.69 kWh) about $31 per month. I'm assuming, though that my new habits of turning things off will compensate for this increase. Even if it doesn't, that's a really small price to pay for clean air.

1 comment:

gregra&gar said...

I love your purpose and your expression of it. Keep up the good work. If you ever need some input on transportation, the other energy driven air pollution, let me know. Keep it up.

My blog is dedicated to the same purpose of leaving a smaller foot print, slanted toward the philosophy that leads us to soil our nest and other ways to see the world. Come visit.