TL;DR: ChooseEnergy. As the current political leadership in America is deprioritizing environmental protection, it is up to us the citizens to take it into our own hands and encourage the private businesses that make provide green solutions. One of the easiest ways to do this is to provide a renewable energy provider. The easiest way to find one in your area is to check out ChooseEnergy(this is not sponsored, they really just have a great site).
A few months ago while walking home in Long Island City, I stopped in the bougiest grocery store in the neighborhood to pick up a couple extra supplies for cooking. I was approached by some representatives of Green Mountain Energy, who offered the option to switch from ConEd for my electicity to a renewable energy alterntive electricty provider. I had never seriously considered signing up for a renewable energy provider, but it aligns with what I care about, so I listened to the pitch. I am glad I didn’t take the bait.
Green Mountain Energy’s pitch is pretty typical for a renewable energy provider. You buy your electricity from them instead of thorugh ConEd, but the electricity is still delivered to you through the grid, you change nothing. What changes is that some percentage of the energy you consume is accounted for by energy that is generated via renewable means, and then put back in the grid.
In theory renewable energy should be cheaper to provide because you don’t have to spend energy on non-renewable resources like gas to generate electricity. In practice, the recent push for renewable energy is prohibitively expensive due to the novelty of supplies to generate it the energy, e.g. solar panels. A good solar panel will easily pay back its upfront cost over the extent of its lifetime. Viewed in the short term it’s too much money, viewed in the long term it is stupid not to take it. Unfortunately, ponying up the money to buy a fleet of solar panels is not in the reach of most consumers or even small to medium sized businesses. This is where buying from a renewable energy provider makes it easy, and GME only makes it a little more expensive than your traditional provider… but more expensive? That’s not right.
It might seem like footing the bill to buy these solar panels means that it costs GME a lot of money upfront, and they are just spreading it out for the consumer. It turns out even that part isn’t true. To make renewable energy accessible to more people, the U.S. government offers subsidies to incentivize adoption. That’s right, you’re already paying for those solar panels. The problem is now shifted from one of financing to one of paperwork. There are plenty of comapnies that already do this. If you have a small to medium sized business in New York State, I’d reccomend reaching out to Light Energy Asset Management(full disclosure: my dad works there). The point is that using renewable energy, your electricity bill should already be cheaper than traditional energy. So GME reps are standing in bougey grocery stores selling a green labeled package at a premium to yuppies. Surprising? Not really, it gets worse.
While investigating prices and alternatives I did some reading on Green Mountain Energy. They were sold from BP and other shareholders to NRG in 2010, and despite the homespun grassroots pitch, they are a behemoth in the deregulated energy markets. They were the first name to come up when searching for generic renewable energy providers in New York. When you search for GME, you pretty quickly come across links about how they are a scam both environmentally and financially. To be fair, when you start looking into utilities providers you realize that no one loves their utilities provider, at best you don’t notice them but when anything goes wrong you hate them. No utilites providers have good Yelp reviews, but very have active long standing boycotts against them. In short, it seems like GME uses mostly non-renewable sources, with minimal effect on carbon emissions and above average sulfur(also greenhouse) emissions.
I ended up scanning some surprisingly insightful resources trying to figure out good green energy solutions for my apartment. Sparing you the details of what I decided on, because you should decide for yourself, I will save you a lot of time and point you to ChooseEnergy. They had the best deals I could find and better, and they’ve cut out a lot of the manual searching by just requiring your zip code. I highly reccomend you look into them. Dealing the the manual process of looking up these options, I really appreciated how much they simplified the process. It is more important under the current political leadership than ever to support the private companies that are enabling real green innovation, I highly encourage everyone to look into renewable energy alternatives.