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Clean, renewable energy sources include wind and solar power. Clean energy is available and dependable. So why aren't more people using it? More...

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Almost 53% of our nation’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels like coal (49.7%) and oil (3%). Less than 3% comes from biomass, geothermal, solar and wind.  (Source: EEI, 2005).  Cleaner, renewable sources of energy have less impact on the environment by emitting less toxins, soot and greenhouse gases.  These air pollutants are associated with climate change and respiratory problems like asthma. Clean energy is available and dependable.  So why aren’t more people using it?

Some don’t realize they have a choice.  As of April 2005, anyone in CT can buy clean energy for their home or business through the CTCleanEnergyOptionsSM program.  CL&P customers can sign up to get half or all of their electricity from clean energy.  “I believe that as people become familiar with the energy options that are available, more and more will decide to choose clean energy,” says Government Jodi Rell. “Connecticut has adopted an aggressive Climate Change Action Plan [and has] a goal of purchasing 20% of the state’s energy from clean sources by 2010.”

This goal is called the Smart Power 20% by 2010 campaign. It is part of a movement to get more residents, schools and businesses to start using and creating demand for clean energy.  In Connecticut, clean energy is defined as energy from wind, solar, small-scale hydropower, landfill gas, fuel cells, ocean thermal or waves and tides, and small-scale, sustainably harvested biomass that uses energy sources like wood, agricultural crops, and animal manures.  These sources are considered “renewable” because, unlike coal, they are not depleted by using them.  You can not use up the wind.

Clean energy is catching on in Woodstock.  The Town already has an ordinance that provides a property tax exemption for certain solar energy systems.  On October 4th, the Woodstock Board of Selectman adopted a clean energy resolution.  (To read the resolution, see “News” at www.woodstockct.gov).  The goal is to offset 20% of the municipal electricity consumption with clean energy.  Once at least 100 customers in Woodstock sign up for clean energy, and Woodstock makes an initial purchase of renewable energy towards the 20% goal, the Town will qualify as an official “CT Clean Energy Community.”  The initial purchase can involve buying a “renewable energy certificate.” It can also be setting up their own clean generation source like a facility that converts manure and animal bedding into energy.  As an added incentive, for every 100 customers who sign up for CTCleanEnergyOptions, the Town will receive a free solar energy system from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund.  So far, at least 51 Woodstock households are on board. 

It is easy to sign up by going to www.ctcleanenergyoptions.com or calling (860) 874-9897.  You can pick between two clean energy suppliers:

  • Sterling Planet generates of their power 33% from wind, 33% from small hydroelectric generation and 34% from landfill gas generation.
  • Community Energy generates 50% of their power from wind and 50% from landfill gas.

The cost depends on which supplier you choose and how much electricity you use.  Check your electric bills to find out how many kilowatt-hours (kWH) you average each month.  If you use 500 kWh per month, which is typical, your monthly bill would increase $4 if you chose the 50% option; $8 if you chose the 100% option.  You still get your bill from CL&P, and the clean energy option shows up as a surcharge.

Counting Woodstock, 60 of CT’s 169 towns have committed to the initiative to date.  Middletown qualified as the first clean energy community in 2005, when Wesleyan University signed up for 1 million kWhs of clean energy.  The Town’s free solar panel was installed at the Middletown Vo-Ag School in April 2006.  It has already prevented the generation of 6,930 lbs. of carbon dioxide.  But the benefits go beyond enabling the Town to get more of its energy from a clean source.  These programs reduce demand on the state’s transmission and distribution system, and show support for building more clean energy capability in the future.  “Ultimately the program will enable us to be less dependent on foreign sources of oil, and reduce environmental pollutants such as greenhouses gases resulting in a cleaner and safer world for current and future generations,” says Lee Wesler of the Woodstock Conservation Commission.  “It’s an easy and inexpensive way to make a difference for your community, Connecticut, and the planet.”  

For more information, see www.smartpower.org or contact Smart Power at (860)
874-9897.  To sign up for the program or to learn more about options and costs, see www.ctcleanenergyoptions.com.  You can track how many people have signed up in your town at www.ctinnovations.com/communities (select your town from the pull-down menu).

***

Special thanks to Keri Enright, State Program Director, Smart Power, for her help on this article.

 

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Originally published in the Villager newspapers on November 2, 2007

 
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