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…)

  • 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.