Dominion customers can buy clean-ish power.

I like to think of myself as being well informed on the topic of energy savings and Virginia law, at least more informed than your average consumer. So I was surprised to learn this evening that Dominion customers can sign up to buy clean power. Wha?

Picking up a hint from the article, I checked out the SBE’s Virginia Energy Choice website, an utterly useless single-page site, though it did inform me that “retail customers may purchase electricity supply from 100 percent renewable sources from competitive suppliers if their local utility company does not include renewable energy as a source of generation.”

Next I headed over to Dominion’s website. After a bit of a struggle I managed to log into my account. Twenty minutes of searching yielded not so much of a hint as to the availability of clean power.

Recalling that a power company named Pepco had been mentioned in the newspaper article, I headed over there. Jackpot.

I’d been puzzled to read that only 1,300 people have signed up for this program, but now I know why — it’s enormously difficult to sign up for. (Why would I visit the website of a power company that doesn’t even provide service here?) At $0.1094 per kilowatt hour, the price isn’t cheap — it’s about twice what most of us are paying for our coal/nuclear mix. The further downside is that while it’s cleaner power, it’s not clean power. It all comes from captured methane gas, presumably from landfills. So there’s still SO2, NOx and CO2 emissions, though the SO2 and NOx emissions are far less than from coal, and the CO2 emissions are about half that of coal.

If you’re a Dominion customer, and it’s worth doubling your monthly power bill to significantly reduce your pollutant output, this is probably a good option for you.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “Dominion customers can buy clean-ish power.”

  1. I did a calculation this summer for my Shenandoah Co-op electric utility and we are already at $0.10/kilowatt-hour – with fees, fuel surcharges and taxes.

  2. Margi Vanderhye, recently elected Delegate for the 34th District, will be introducing a bill that requires utilities to provide on all mailings how to purchase renewable energy, because of the very problems indicated in your blog.

    There are 2 green energy alternatives through Pepco Energy Services, 100% wind energy, and 100% landfill gas. Landfill gas is an excellent alternative. In a typical landfill, methane is released into the atmosphere. Not only is methane a recognized pollutant, it is 23 times worse per unit volume than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. Therefore by burning the methane to create energy, one is GREATLY reducing not only a pollutant but global warming because the amount of carbon dioxide produced by burning the methane makes a much smaller contribution to global warming than the methane does.

    Signing up for renewable energy will increase the average electrical bill by about 1/7th to 1/8th. However, eventually costs will go down. In Austin Texas — which has had a green energy option about 8 years — this year the green energy customers actually pay about 1/4 cent per kwh less than the normal customers.

  3. We get our power from AEP. I called them today and they said they have no “greener” options available in VA. However, it seems to me I remember something about other companies providing alternatives that we could use? Anyone have any ideas? Thanks!

  4. Sacramento Municipal Utility District has long been a leader in new thinking about energy. Shortly after the nuclear power plant there was decommissioned by popular vote, they got real friendly in terms of alternative programs. Reduced interest loans on energy saving equipment, free energy friendly screening for you house (the materials), a solar mirror array, and other programs allowed them to go years in the late 90’s without a rate increase.

    The have an opt-in feature as well, and I am unaware of the current parameters of the program.

    On another note, wouldn’t the extra money earn interest until a solar panel and/or other system could be afforded that would lower the overall use of Dominion’s power, with a similar result? I understand the problems of net metering, and maybe that would be a good law to suggest to someone this session.

  5. Malena:
    Virginia utilities are currently providing contact info for their customers (see Waldo’s Energy Choice link above). Look for a notification from your utility and make sure you DO NOT opt out for notification because you will receive offers from alternative energy suppliers in the coming year.

  6. The only service provider I see for Virginia is Pepco. Am I missing something? They offer Wind and Landfill Gas options with a 14 month contract. Not sure about contract break fees. I agree with the earlier post about venting the Methane from landfills. Burning is a better option and we might as well capture the energy created by burning it and use it to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

  7. Rockingham County is already collecting and flaring their LFG. The new County hospital – RMH has a green initiative and is working with the County to collect, dry and compress the gas for sale to the Hospital. The landfill is expected to generate 800 c.f. of methane / minute – enough to pay for the cost of drying/compression/transmission.

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