February 1, 2012

Boston Globe disses green electricity

The Boston Globe published an irresponsible front page article, Green electricity finds few customers discouraging the adoption of green electricity.  


The article asks why there are relatively low numbers of people who have signed up for NSTAR Green and concludes that few people are willing to pay more for green energy. 
The Boston Globe article makes no mention of the many alternatives to NSTAR Green for customers interested in buying green electricity. 


It is possible to buy 100% renewable electricity for less money than you are currently paying for NSTAR's basic service. Install solar panels on your roof. Many companies will install a solar energy system for no money down and they will sell you the solar electricity from the system for 10% less than your current utility rate. So instead of paying $100 a month for dirty electricity, you could pay $90 a month for clean, renewable electricity and have fun watching the NSTAR meter spin backwards on sunny days! 


If you don't have a good roof for solar, you can buy Green-e certified renewable electricity on your own for much, much less than NSTAR Green.  Green-e certified electricity is available from many vendors, not just NSTAR Green. You can buy renewable electricity from Midwestern wind farms for only about $0.0035 / kWh more than NSTAR's basic service. 


So someone paying $100 per month for dirty electricity could be paying only $102.20 a month for 100% green renewable wind powered electricity. You can go to green-e.org to find lists of vendors who will be happy to sell you green electricity. 

Now back to the Boston Globe article - 

The Boston Globe article leaves people with the impression that the cost of wind power is increasing rapidly, but that just isn't true. 


The cost of NSTAR Green has gone up less than a 1/2 cent per kWh or only about 0.65% per year over the last 4 years. (I'm using numbers from the charts included with the article.) 


Meanwhile NSTAR's delivery charges over the same period have gone up 1.2 cents per kWh -  from $0.068 / kWh to $0.08 / kWh for a 17.9% increase over the same period. 


Let's look at where the real cost increases are coming from.  How can NSTAR justify increasing their delivery charges by 17.9% for all of their customers no matter what kind of electricity they buy? 

My experience is that NSTAR is actively discouraging people from participating in the NSTAR Green program. I was one of the first customers to sign up for NSTAR Green. I have received at least 4 letters from NSTAR over the last 3 years telling me how I could easily un-enroll in the program. 


When was the last time you received a letter from any vendor outlining the process for canceling their service as the primary message of the letter? It doesn't sound like an organization that is interested in growing their customer base for that product. 


NSTAR has also chosen to set the price of the product as an additional charge above and beyond conventional electricity. This makes no sense and discourages people from signing up. NSTAR has signed long-term, fixed price contracts for their wind power. Customers buying NSTAR Green should also be able to pay a reasonable price based on NSTAR's long-term fixed price costs for their wind power. 



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