The obligation of the environmentally-conscious American is still often presented simply as a matter of cutting back: driving less, buying less, and turning off the lights when you’re not using them. In a forward- thinking market, though, American consumers can now choose not just how much energy they consume, but where they get that energy.
In recent years, American electricity companies have begun to offer more energy options. Green alternatives such as solar and wind, once highly theoretical in terms of their real-world value, have now become serious, viable alternatives available to a large percentage of the American populace.
What’s more, Americans living in some states now have the opportunity to choose who they buy their electricity from, which allows them greater control not just over their own carbon footprint, but also over the rising demand for alternative energies.
What’s Happening with Energy Right Now
There are several reasons to get out of the fossil fuels business, some of them more obvious than others. As we all know by now, traditional energy sources are bad for the environment, and they’re not exactly great for the economy, either. As discussed in a previous ClimateState article on the current situation with oil prices, traditional energy continues to be incredibly destructive both financially and environmentally, while the alternative energy sector is taking hold and actually creating jobs.
There are a few positives to take away here:
1 It’s not just bigwig investors who have control over the market anymore. What the average consumer wants and chooses to buy will affect how alternative energy develops in the future, as well as how fast it develops.
2 Creating alternative energy options can now be viewed not just as a selfless moral obligation, but as something that is actively benefiting us.
3 Green energy is picking up momentum, which provides consumers with an opportunity to give it even more of a push.
With alternative energy options on the rise in the U.S., it’s important for Americans to consider not just how our decisions will affect the planet, but also how they’ll affect the market. In order to do that, we need to understand why things are changing in the first place.
Why Green Energy Is Working
Part of the reason for the increase in alternative energy’s availability for Americans is that the American energy market has been becoming increasingly more deregulated. Several U.S. states now have deregulated electricity markets.
Texas in particular is notable for the amount of options and resources available. It’s a great example of how the market is changing.
This changing market has produced consumer-geared resources in what was once a government-controlled industry, including a site on which buyers can compare Texas electricity companies and explore their best options for green and efficient energy. This state of affairs gives people the opportunity to shop for energy as they would for anything else, and to incorporate moral and social concerns into their purchasing decisions.
If you don’t live in Texas or another unregulated state, though, don’t sweat it. You’ve still got options.
How You Can Support Green Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy website offers information and tips on how to buy green energy regardless of where you live. Your choices will fall into these main categories:
• Buying directly from an alternative electricity provider: This is a route available to those who live in unregulated areas that allow electricity companies to compete. By supporting alternative providers, you’ll be giving them an edge over their fossil-fuel competitors, or those who don’t exclusively offer green products.
• “Green pricing” programs:Even if your state forces you to buy from a regulated provider, your provider may offer a program that allows you to pay an additional cost to support that company’s investment in renewable energy sources. This obviously isn’t as effective as being able to take control over exactly what you’re buying, but it still allows you to support green energy. If you don’t know if you have this option available to you, ask!
• Renewable energy certificates: If you don’t have access to either of the above options, you can still buy RECs, or renewable energy certificates. The purchase of these certificates supports the environmentally-friendly production of energy, and provides a simple way to exercise control over the energy market without actually purchasing energy to use yourself. While it may be the least appealing route in terms of personal gain, it allows you to play an active role in the market while increasing the demand for alternative energies and incentive for companies to go green.
It’s important to remember that lifestyle choices and basic conservation of resources should not be underestimated, but the option to purchase green energy is a powerful one that will continue to make a difference well into the future.
Even if a full transition to green energy is already inevitable, the decisions American consumers make now will affect how quickly it becomes the norm.
Teaser image via Wikipedia