SHREWSBURY – Some residents are opting to pay more for electricity under a voluntary program that allows local consumers to buy “green power” from New England wind farms.
The town-owned and operated electric company, Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations, in January introduced its GreenLight program, which allows customers to buy renewable energy by choosing to pay $5, $10 or more, in addition to their usual electric bill, per month. The program was introduced in mid-January, and so far has attracted about 50 customers, said Jackie Pratt, SELCO’s promotions manager. Participation requires a commitment of one year.
The program gives consumers a way to support the use of renewable energy, but the extra fee does not give them any financial benefits.
SELCO has a preliminary deal to buy 135 renewable energy credits, also known as “green tags” through the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance, for 135,000 kilowatt hours of nonpolluting wind power from New England wind farms, Ms. Pratt said. The credits cost about $60 each, Ms. Pratt said. The wind farms will supply electricity to the regional grid. The average Shrewsbury home uses 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month.
The electric grid does not distinguish between “green” electrons and those produced by natural gas, but by paying extra for wind power, residents are ensuring that a clean, renewable energy source is being produced, Ms. Pratt said. By supporting green power generation, residents can help reduce the regional grid’s dependence on fossil fuels and to finance the construction of more generation plants fueled by renewable resources, she said.
For Shrewsbury, the investment in renewable energy is largely symbolic; the municipally-owned utility is not required by state law to supply a certain percentage of “new renewable” power to its customers each year. Electric companies operating in Massachusetts are regulated by the state Division of Energy Resources, which requires the utilities to produce a rising share of green power every year. Municipal power companies, such as SELCO, are exempt.
In Shrewsbury, however, SELCO found through a customer survey that there is local demand from customers who want green energy, said Ms. Pratt.
John P. Martin of North Street opted to pay $20 per month for green power. He said he has believed that the United States needs to reduce its reliance on foreign oil, and that the government should do more to encourage the development of alternative sources such as wind. Mr. Martin produces a show on local cable access called “Voice of Reason,” which airs on weekends.
“I just felt that for decades now we have not taken the proper steps to get ourselves off of oil dependency,” Mr. Martin said. “I believe the government has to support any new energy sources in a big way. I’m doing it on principle.”
The town has operated a municipal light department since 1908. It buys power primarily from a regional wholesaler and other utilities. Currently, the bulk of the town’s power is fueled by natural gas, about 25 percent comes from nuclear plants, and 4 percent from hydroelectric sources. The bulk of remaining power comes from natural gas sources, and, small amounts of oil and coal, according to SELCO.
25 February 2007
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