Truckee utility gives green option
Truckees public utility district will give customers the option to pay a higher energy bill in order to support renewable energy nationwide.But local green energy promoters are wondering why the money is not staying a little closer to home.Renewable energy is generated from sources that have a relatively low impact on the environment including wind, solar power, geothermal, biomass and hydropower, said Kathy Neus, the districts technical program administrator.At a meeting Wednesday evening, the Truckee Donner Public Utility board of directors agreed to adopt a Renewable Energy Certificates program, which will add a voluntary fee of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour to a ratepayers monthly utilities bill.The self-imposed fee will be tacked onto the current kilowatt-hour charge of 12.8 cents, so customers using an average 761 kilowatt-hours per month and who opt to add the fee will see a $15.22 increase in their monthly bill.According to Neus, the district wont supply the green power generated through the renewable energy credit purchases, nor will it benefit financially by offering the program. Rather, the goal is to profit the nations energy-conservation efforts as a whole.Because the district does not own any green resources yet such as wind turbines it must go through a renewable energy credits marketer to provide customers with a way to support clean energy, Neus said. Project coordinators are looking to purchase the credits, or green tags, from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a nonprofit organization that markets green-power products to public utilities, businesses, government agencies and individuals, Neus said.But local green-energy advocates said while district intentions are noble, there may be other options. Beth Ingalls, founder of the Truckee Climate Action Network, said she would like to see a portion of the funds donated to local green organizations like the Network to aid carbon reduction programs it is already undertaking.However, because the utility district does not currently own or operate a renewable energy resource, director Ron Hemig said in the meantime, the Renewable Energy Certificates program is the best option to engage residents in sustainability efforts. Were a small district, so we dont have the capability yet [for renewable energy resources], so we need to link with someone who can help us, Hemig said. This [program] could go in different directions.One possible direction the board has discussed is earmarking funds for future local conservation projects.We may try to tie the green tags eventually into something local, Hemig said. We always try to do what we can ourselves.Brian Woody, founder of Truckee Biofuels, said he agrees with Ingalls in that there are other options for area residents to make a difference.He said green tags are available through his companys Web site, and the purchases are tax deductible, unlike the utility districts program.Woody said because he provides the green tags through NativeEnergy a farmer-owned renewable energy credits resource the cost is less-expensive per kilowatt-hour, and customers can specify which farm or project to aid.By contrast, customers who donate through the utility district cannot choose specific projects to support, but they can indicate which renewable power wind, solar, or a mixture of both to subsidize, Neus said.To purchase through the district is not so much an incentive as a convenience, Neus said. The cost is included on the bill, and not another charge to a credit card, or mailing a check.Ultimately, the program is part of the districts effort to help residential and commercial customers reduce their environmental impact, Neus said. Doing this came as a direct result of the whole coal debate, Neus said, referring to a 50-year power contract the district opted not to enter in late 2006. This is what people said they wanted.
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