Renewables not cheap
Wind, solar far higher cost than ‘polluting energy’ sources
IN DECEMBER, A company called CleanChoice Energy mailed out a sales pitch to electricity customers in eastern Massachusetts. The letter acknowledged that 100 percent renewable energy from solar and wind would cost “a little more” than “polluting energy,” but said the added expense was worth it.
“That’s because the energy you are choosing is better for you and the planet,” the brochure said. “When you add more renewable energy to the electric grid, you are reducing toxic waste and air pollution, making the world a healthier place with cleaner air.”
In smaller print, CleanChoice Energy said the current fixed rate for the company’s clean energy was 14.8 cents per kilowatt hour, which compared to 8.2 cents a kilowatt hour for the electricity procured for customers by Eversource through competitive bidding.
The difference in price is huge. For a typical customer using 600 kilowatt hours a month, the Eversource price is $49.20, while the CleanChoice product costs $85.20. That’s just the price for electricity, and doesn’t include separate transmission, distribution, and customer service charges assessed by Eversource.
Those companies with lower renewable energy prices tend to have cancellation fees if the customer wants to get out of the 12-month contract early. Champion, for example, charges a fee of $10 a month for each month left on the contract. Green Mountain Energy, which charges 10.2 cents a kilowatt hour for renewable energy, assesses a $150 fee for early cancellation.
Eversource procures power for customers in six-month increments. Its 8.2-cent price expired at the end of December, and rose to 9.996 cents per kilowatt hour for the six-month period which ends at the end of June. The July-December price is typically well below the January-June winter price.Michael Durand, a spokesman for Eversource, said the company used to offer a renewable energy option to customers called NStar Green, but discontinued the program a year ago. Few customers took advantage of the program, which relied primarily on power from wind farms.
“We established it to give customers a green option back at a time when those options weren’t as prevalent as they are now,” Durand says. “We’re now using the power generated by those two wind farm contracts as part of our basic service portfolio.”