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Green Power Gets Black Eye in Montgomery County


One unintended result of two recent moves by the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council, taken in the name of tightening the budget, will adversely affect the "green" electricity movement in the county.

The first action involves a subject we've covered extensively here at Electric Advisors: the county's huge energy-tax increase. We have an entire area here at the site devoted to the tax, and how it will affect businesses and residents in the county.

The second is one that didn't get much press coverage: the elimination of the Clean Energy Rewards program. According to the County's Web site:

The Clean Energy Rewards program provided Montgomery County homes and businesses an incentive (half a cent per kilowatt-hour of clean energy used) for purchasing clean, renewable energy.

While the program was beneficial, current economic conditions are affecting many County programs, including this one. As a result, the Clean Energy Rewards program will close on June 15, 2010.

Participants currently enrolled in the program will stop receiving Clean Energy Rewards on their electricity bill on June 15, 2010. However, participants will continue to receive clean energy or renewable energy certificates through the duration of the contract with their clean energy supplier.

If applicable to you, more information about this program's closure will be sent by your clean energy supplier. The Clean Energy Rewards program will continue to offer information about clean energy sources, direct residents and businesses to local clean energy suppliers, and provide information about solar energy options.

While offering information is helpful, the cessation of financial assistance will definitely hurt. And the huge tax increase will make green electricity a much-less financially attainable option for improving the area's environment.

The program was a real success, too. According to WGES (Washington Gas Energy Services, one of our suppliers):

Since its inception in 2007, the Clean Energy Rewards program .. encouraged over 6,000 residents and 300 businesses to make the switch from electricity generated by fossil-fuel fired power plants to clean energy sources like wind and solar. Together, program participants have avoided [generating] over 120,000 tons of carbon dioxide by switching to clean energy.

As you may know, using green electricity can be as simple as signing up with a package from us here at EA. We have several options for commercial accounts, including renewable energy credit (REC) purchases and windpower purchasing. For residential accounts, we offer CleanSteps Windpowerâ„¢ as an agent of WGES.

Thing is, green power is more expensive than non-renewable energy. With taxes going way up, the baseline cost for electricity in Montgomery is headed up as well -- even skyward for large commercial utility account holders. With the county's rewards program being relegated to the history books, there's even less money available for the purchase of green electricity.

As a LEED Green Associate candidate (my training is done, and I'm taking the accreditation test in a few weeks), I have studied green power and its effects on homes, buildings and even neighborhood development. I know the advantages and improvements that green power can bring to our ecosystem.

However, I know that a lot of people -- both individuals paying their own electric bills, and those who run companies -- are looking at the bottom line more closely than ever nowadays. With both of these moves by the county council, green electricity becomes even less attractive of an option for Montgomery County residents, businesses and commercial property owners.

While this won't deter us here at EA from offering green power, we hope council members realize they have harmed the green movement in Montgomery County. We can only hope the council will have the fortitude to sunset this tax increase in two years, as promised.

And as for the Clean Energy Rewards program? Let's just say that it will probably be even more difficult to bring back than it will be to sunset the energy-tax increase.

Tagselectricity, energy, Green, montgomery county, natural gas, pepco, tax

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