From earlier in the week, good news about Portland General Electric:
PGE [has moved to] the head of the pack nationally in terms of demand for green energy. Under its green-power program, Oregon’s largest utility sells more kilowatts of renewable power to its residential customers than any other utility in the country, regardless of size. [Emphasis added]
Wow. PGE is nowhere near the nation’s largest utility. Still, it leads the nation “green energy” signups—people who opt to pay a bit extra on their home utility bills to support wind, solar, small hydro, or similar climate-friendly energy sources. Seems like PGE—and its customers—deserve a pat on on the back.
But wait, there’s more! (Or perhaps less…)
Find this article interesting? Support more research like this with a gift!
Just 6.2 percent of PGE’s customers, or 49,000, participate…
That’s right, one-sixteenth of the customer base is enough to push PGE into first place nationally for green power signups.
Seems to me that this story is telling in two ways. First, there’s a small but growing market for green power and more sustainable energy choices. And that’s genuinely good news. But second, it’s still a very small market—and if history is any guide, it’s going to take a lot of work to make inroads in the rest of the population—to convince more and more people to voluntarily choose higher utility bills.
In my mind, that’s a common theme in “green consumerism.” It’s helpful on many, many levels. But broader changes—on the scale we’ll need to avoid devastating long-term damage to the climate and atmosphere—is going to require more fundamental changes in our energy system. Encouraging green consumer choices is a great start; but it’s only a start.
Clark, I would say that 49,000 participants or one-sixteenth of the customer base is actually quite a significant group given the lack of individual incentive to participate. The folks that opt in to renewables are taxing themselves and personally taking on the burden of climate change while their neighbors ride free on their good will. Moreover, it appears that renewable customers will pay the same rate hikes as everyone else as the price of fossil fuels go up, although their investment may dampen the increases for the customer base overall. All this, and their electricity service doesn’t look, smell or taste any different then it did before. I think fact that 49,000 individuals and businesses signed up on good will alone tells us how strong the desire is for renewable energy investments, and if the burden for this investment was spread more equitably I think we would see a lot more customers jump on board.