Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What do you want for Christmas?

From the Union Daily Times:

The other present I want [for Christmas] is 300 watts of green energy, only instead of Santa Claus bringing it down my chimney, I'm going to pay Santee Cooper for it. The company, through Broad River Electric Cooperative, is offering residential and commercial customers green power derived from solar energy or methane gas extracted from landfills. Residential customers can get 100-watt blocs and commercial customers 200-watt blocs. The residential blocs cost $3 a month and that's what I'd planned to start with until my wife, Melony, suggested we go ahead and get three blocs for $9 a month, so that's what we're going to do.

We're not going to wait for Christmas to do it, either - and may not wait for the canvas bags, as Melony's thinking about making us some - because the sooner we all start buying green power the better. Santee Cooper is trying to build a coal-fired power plant on the Great Pee Dee River. The last thing South Carolina - and this world - needs is another facility spewing fossil fuel pollution into an already too-polluted atmosphere.

The Coastal Conservation League estimates the plant will put 300 lbs. of mercury, 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of tons of smog and soot-forming pollutants into the atmosphere every year. The League also states that the plant would create coal ash landfills hundreds of acres in size near the river and use millions of gallons of water a day impacting 100 acres of wetlands.

This won't happen if we consumers use our dollars to tell Santee Cooper and other utility companies that we want green power. The $9 a month I'm going to be spending on green power isn't much, but if everyone in this state who has the opportunity to do so bought that much green power or more it would send a powerful message that when it comes to saving the environment, South Carolinians are willing to put their money where their mouths are.
Members of the state's 20 Co-ops or Santee Cooper customers can currently buy green power. They should seize this opportunity, since others in the state will have to wait.

Santee Cooper has announced plans to offer green power statewide, however, as of last week, these plans have yet to be finalized. The state's investor owned utilities have long been planning to start their own green power program, dubbed Palmetto Clean Energy (see this press release from SC's Office of Regulatory Staff). No word yet from these folks as to when green power will be available for purchase.

Hopefully by Christmas either Santee Cooper or the Palmetto Clean Energy people will have a state-wide program operating, but at this rate, you're more likely to get coal in your stocking.

Statewide alternatives to a new coal plant are needed now. This includes the ability to purchase verified green power from your utility (NC GreenPower, the North Carolina program upon which Palmetto Clean Energy is rumored to be based, cannot guarantee the money you send them is actually invested in renewable energy), as well as a full-service programs to help you save energy in your home.

Instead of aggressively developing and promoting such services, most utilities in this state continue with plans for large scale generation projects, either coal or nuclear, with the occasional green-washing PR event, while low-hanging fruit is left unharvested.

Consider contacting your utility, whether Santee Cooper or Progress Energy, and demanding both: (1) verifiable renewable energy and (2) comprehensive energy efficiency programs -- that way you could expect to find both a cleaner environment and a fatter wallet under the Christmas Tree (and hopefully no coal in your stocking).

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