Earlier this year, the City of Waco announced that its 2022 electricity contract for municipal power needs would provide 100% clean, renewable energy. Climate activists commended the City for this important decision. However, the City uses only a fraction of total electricity consumed, with residences, businesses, schools, and churches consuming the majority of power. We thus call on all users of electricity to follow the example of the City of Waco and purchase 100% clean, renewable energy.
Why is it important to use 100% clean, renewable electricity in Waco? “Clean” power generation is free of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are producing our current climate crisis. In fact, of all sources of GHGs in the United States, electricity production is the second largest. In addition, clean electricity generation is free of air pollutants, like sulfur dioxide and lead, which cause an estimated 200,000 deaths in the US annually. And “renewable” means that this supply of energy, derived from the sun and wind and oceans, is inexhaustible. On the other hand, the supply of fossil fuels will someday end.
But how can the clean electricity reach my outlet when it is diluted with dirty electricity? This is one of the most confusing aspects of renewable energy. It is absolutely true that electrons from a wind turbine or solar panel are mixed with electrons from a coal power plant in the power lines that traverse to your home. It is analogous to a glass of clean water poured into a dirty river. So, your home receives a minute portion of the massive river of electricity from all sources—you cannot directly utilize the renewable electricity you purchase.
If so, how does your renewable power purchase fight climate change? As you purchase a percentage of renewable electricity from a utility, that company then purchases a matching number of Renewable Energy Certificates/Credits (RECs). These RECs then support the development and operation of more renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro, wave or tidal. As the megawatt hours output of clean energy grows, the fraction of dirty fossil fuel energy shrinks
How do I purchase renewable energy from available utilities? In the Waco area, many consumers may select an electricity provider from a buffet of utilities on websites such as chooseenergy.com. For example, for the Waco zip code 76710, we found 13 providers and a total of 70 power plans available to consumers. The monthly bill estimates for 1000kWh usage ranged from $62 to $159. Within these 70 plans, 20 provided 100% renewable energy, distributed amongst 6 companies.
The following is an overview of those 6 companies offering renewable energy plans:
- Gexa Energy, 7 plans, monthly bill estimate for 1000kWh is $64 to $147.
- Tri-Eagle Energy, 2 plans, monthly bill estimate for 1000kWh is $108 and $110.
- Pulse Power, 2 plans, monthly bill estimate for 1000kWh is $110 and $111.
- 4 Change Energy, 1 plan, monthly bill estimate for 1000kWh is $133.
- TxU, 1 plan, monthly bill estimate for 1000kWh is $145.
- Green Mountain Energy, 7 plans, monthly bill estimate for 1000kWh is $109 to $141.
(It is important to note that this comparison provides a summary of the plans, and that the details of each should be reviewed. Specifically, the EFL [Electricity Fact Label] provides the small print details of each plan and can confirm that a plan is actually “100% renewable.”)
Is an economical 100% renewable energy plan available? YES. Each consumer must compare the plans for their specific zip code and kWh usage. However, the example above shows that renewable electricity CAN be among the most economical plans: the Gexa Energy Saver Deluxe 12 plan, at $64 monthly for 1000kWh, is one of the lowest-cost plans. Gexa specializes in renewable energy, with 6 other plans offered. But energy purchase transcends price: this is an investment in our children’s futures.
In addition to following the City of Waco, why purchase 100% renewable electricity? The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of respecting and heeding scientific expertise. The climatologists’ warning that we must convert our entire energy system to clean energy by 2050 is as certain as the physician’s warning of the necessity of social distancing. In addition, we know that the transition to renewable energy will save lives, decrease cardiopulmonary disease, decrease medical costs, create jobs, save water, and preserve precious lands.
Does our energy choice impact pandemics? With all of these reasons to participate in the transition to renewable energy, a stunning recent report from the Intergovernmental Science- Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) added yet another reason—to help prevent additional pandemics. The report found that climate change, rampant deforestation, and uncontrolled agricultural expansion contribute to the spillover of diseases from animals to man. The authors noted that “We have a small window of opportunity in overcoming the challenges of the current crisis, to avoid sowing the seeds of future ones.” As consumers, our choice of renewable energy will help us enter that window—and we can now do so economically.
Alan D. Northcutt, M.D.
May 3, 2020
Alan Northcutt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Waco physician and Director of a climate action and education organization, the Waco Friends of Peace/Climate