May 25, 2017

Best Green Electricity Residential Options in Maryland

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Renewable energy

Price Comparison of Green Energy Options in Maryland

The following is a comparison of residential renewable energy plans available in the BGE service area of Maryland (with the exception of one option only available in the PEPCO service area). Comparisons include both residential rates for generation and transmission and the fraction of renewable generation sources in each plan. The conclusions provide both the “greenest” energy option and the lowest cost reasonably green option.

What are Green Energy and Renewable Energy Certificates?

In recent years environmental concerns have grown greatly in the public awareness. This development was not lost on energy utility companies. Many companies, both mainstream and those building their business on “green” energy have developed electric rate plans based in part or fully on renewable energy generation.

Not all such plans are provided by companies that generate electric power from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geo-thermal, waste gas, etc. Some take advantage of so-called “Renewable Energy Certificates” or RECs. These certificates allow a company that generates energy from renewable sources to sell the renewable attribute of the energy separately from the energy itself. This can only be done once, and the energy which is then sold can no longer be claimed as renewable or green [1].

The Green-e Renewable energy certification is a program administered by San Francisco based non-profit, the Center for Resource Solutions. The program, launched in California in November 1997 has by now gone national [1].

Maryland Electricity Green Options for Residential Service

The electric energy market in Maryland was deregulated many years ago, allowing consumers to buy their electric power from any of a list of generators, and still have the power distribution service and repairs (e.g. storm outages, etc.) provided by their local utility such as BGE or PEPCO. The electric bill is provided by the same utility and shows the separate charges for distribution vs. generation and transmission.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a list of options for Maryland electricity customers who want to make sure their electric power usage is environmentally friendly [2]. At the time of this writing (November 11, 2010) these options include WGES, Viridian, Constellation Energy, Maryland Green Power, and Clean Currents. Some of these have only so-called “pure” green plans, while others have in addition partially renewable source plans ranging from 20% to 50% green. By comparison, the BGE normal residential service provides a mix of generation including only 4.6% renewable energy [3].

Price Comparison of Maryland Green Electricity Plans

The standard BGE plan’s current “price to compare” which blends the summer and non-summer rates is $0.1075/kWh [4]. Note that this is not the full per kilowatt-hour cost of electricity. That latter includes the so-called distribution charge, which for BGE is currently $0.0237/kWh in addition to the generation and transmission rates quoted below [5]. In May of 2010 BGE requested authorization to increase that distribution rate by 5% [6], which is still being considered by the Public Service Commission (PSC) [7].

WGES is currently offering 50% green plans and 100% green plans, with contracts for either 12 or 24 months. The residential rates offered for 50% green are $0.098/kWh for the 12-month plan and $0.101/kWh for the 24-month plan [8]. The 100% green plan offers rates of $0.108/kWh for a 12-month plan and $0.113/kWh for the 24-month one.

Another company, Viridian, has been aggressively marketing itself as a network marketing business opportunity in addition to providing partially or 100% green electricity. Their plans do not require signing contracts which allows prices to fluctuate. With commodity prices currently foreseen to gradually decrease this may be a benefit, though it does inject some uncertainty into the mix. Viridian offers a 20% green plan at $0.099/kWh and a 100% pure green plan at $0.109/kWh [9]. At this time Viridian is offering a 10% discount off the first month of service for new customers signing up before the end of 2010. The short term nature of this offer, and its limitation to sign-ups in the coming few weeks place it in the “nice but not significant” category for the purpose of a price comparison.

Constellation Energy provides much of the power in BGE’s market from a decidedly non-green mix of generation plants. However, they also offer a 100% green plan at $0.1055/kWh for 12 month contracts and $0.1045/kWh for 24-month contracts [10].

Maryland Green Power provides three levels of environmental friendliness in its rate offerings (limited in Maryland to PEPCO’s area of service). These are 25% green at $0.0929/kWh, 50% green at $0.0958/kWh, and 100% green at $0.1018/kWh [11].

Last but not least is Clean Currents, which offers 50% and 100% green plans with 12- and 24-month contracts. In the BGE area the 50% green offers come in at $0.093/kWh for 12 months and $0.094/kWh for 24 months, while the 100% green contracts are priced $0.098/kWh for 12 months and $0.098/kWh for 24 months [12]. In some other areas these plans are as low as $0.075/kWh for 12 months and $0.08/kWh for 24 months.

Bottom Line – Clean Currents offers Best Green Deals

As can be seen in the comparison table below, whether you’re looking for the best price for a 100% green plan, or for the least expensive but reasonably green plan, as of this writing, Clean Currents beats out the competition. You could cut 0.1% off the latter rate by going with the least green of Maryland Green Power’s green offerings, but this negligible saving comes at the cost of dropping from 50% to 25% renewable power generation.

Interestingly, Clean Current’s plan is cheaper than BGE’s “price to compare” by 13.5% for the 50% green plan, and even their pure 100% green plan is cheaper than BGE’s abysmal 4.6% green plan by 9%! This is great news – Maryland electricity consumers can now reduce their electricity rates and at the same time help the environment.

References:

[1] https://www.constellation-electric.com/faqs.php

[2] http://apps3.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/buying/buying_power.shtml?state=MD&print

[3] http://www.bge.com/portal/site/bge/menuitem.c76e0a8696602fccef5cee10426176a0/

[4] http://www.bge.com/vcmfiles/BGE/Files/Rates%20and%20Tariffs/Rates%20and%20Tariffs%20Electric/Part%203%20-%20All%20Files/P3_SCH_R.pdf

[5] http://www.terralogoseg.com/greenNews/documents/Sun_Q-A_on_BGE_Rate_Hike.pdf

[6] http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-05-07/business/bs-bz-bge-electric-rates-gas-20100507_1_distribution-rates-increase-maryland-public-service-commission

[7] http://webapp.psc.state.md.us/Intranet/home.cfm

[8] https://www.wges.com/portal/select.php

[9] http://www.viridian.com/Viridian/Custom/CUST077/PersonalPages/rp_md.aspx

[10] https://www.constellation-electric.com/selectrate.php

[11] http://www.marylandgreenpower.com/getEnergyPriceQuote.php

[12] http://www.cleancurrents.com/index.php/Clean-Currents-Wind-Power-for-Home

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