How do I start green energy?

How can green energy help the environment?

When you flip on a light switch, you probably think of, well, light. But do you ever think about coal? The majority of U.S. residents get their electricity from coal-fired power plants, and these plants contribute 40 percent of America’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Green energy can help the environment in reducing greenhouse emissions. Largely carbon itself, coal releases copious quantities of carbon dioxide when burned. So running just one 100-watt
light bulb 12 hours a day for a year requires 357 pounds of coal and pumps about
half a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Thankfully, more renewable energy options are available today than ever before, which means you can start now to wean yourself from fossil fuels
(natural gas is another major energy source for electricity), and at the same time help to build a bigger and better green energy market that reaches far beyond your own home.

Wherever you live, chances are high that you can obtain emissions-free power, in the form of solar, wind, hydro (water), geothermal (underground), biomass (plant matter), or even methane (gas from landfills).

Hydrogen fuel cells are being developed and may be a more mainstream option within a decade. And whatever form it takes, every kilowatt hour of renewable energy prevents a full pound of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

How do I start green energy?

The easiest way to get started with green energy is to order it right from your utility company. Utility companies in 35 states offer green power pricing plans.

For example, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California offers its
customers wind, solar, hydro, and even landfill gas energy for as little as $6 more each month.

Although the customer’s home won’t actually be powered by
wind power (for example), the amount of energy that they use will be generated somewhere in the shared electric grid by wind power, if they select this option.

See if your state is on the list by checking this U.S. Department of Energy website: greenpower. Call your utility, visit their website, or check your last bill or statement to learn about their green energy offerings.

You can also buy a custom green energy system for your home or business from companies that purvey wind, solar, and geothermal power.

In western New York, for example, there are almost two dozen companies that manufacture, sell, and/or install customized home or business wind, solar, or geothermal systems (see At, you can find companies in your corner of the country that can customize a solar system for you—from a solar hot water heater to the whole photovoltaic enchilada!

Federal and state governments offer various tax deductions or credits for purchase of home solar and other renewable energy systems. For details, see the website of the Directory of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency

Can green energy be economically viable?

As equipment, installation, and maintenance costs for many green energy systems tend to be quite high, it’s clear why more households didn’t switch to solar or other green power decades ago.

Even considering the savings on electricity bills, many systems don’t pay for themselves for 20 years or more.

Currently, solar and wind power combined account for less than 2 percent of electricity use in the U.S., although this number is growing as more customers switch to green energy and invest in carbon offsetting.

As we wait for technology to advance and prices to go down, there are several
lower priced options for homeowners to consider.

You can save on your solar
power purchase with “net metering,” where energy generated at your home is
not stored in a solar array but instead goes back to the shared electric grid, and you pay for any shortfall of energy from your system. On the flipside, if you generate more energy than you use, you receive a credit.

Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, all public electric utilities in the U.S. are required to offer net metering to their customers on request.

Solar systems are also available for lease today by an innovative green company called Powur of Citizenre ( Citizenre makes it easy on those who cannot afford the up-front capital costs of green power.

They install their solar equipment for free and charge you the same rates you would
pay your existing power company. They also keep your current rates locked in
for up to 25 years and perform all maintenance at no cost.

As a new green energy consumer, be sure you’re getting the greenest energy at the lowest price. At the EPA’s website, you can check out the Guide to Purchasing Green Power and get familiar with the key criteria and critical questions to ask.

You’ll find that going with green energy really is empowering—you’ll make a big difference for the green energy market and the green movement, and you’ll feel great about your contribution to solving the world’s most pressing problem.

The more we make green energy part or all of the energy we purchase, the more we move the mandate for a cooler planet!

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