OK, I’ll admit that our switch from Florida Power and Light to Pear Energy, a renewable energy broker over a year ago, right after we began our lease of a Nissan Leaf, made me feel a tad smug. Competitions about one’s carbon footprint don’t seem out of line, given the state of the Planet. Not to mention that I managed to convince a small number of friends to make the switch.
We stuck with Pear despite accusations in social media that the company was engaged in ‘green-washing,’ because here in South Florida, there seemed to be no better choice. The company’s move from Miami to Amherst, MA, gave me pause but it was business as usual. Here’s a link to the discussion between that convinced us we’d rather fight than switch back: http://www.greenwashingindex.com/pear-energy-how-green/ I’ve written some damage-control PR in my life, so I appreciated how Pear answered its critics:
… it is important to keep in mind that we are an independent REC seller, which is a different model than that of a local utility’s green energy program. Local utilities are established, profitable businesses that simply add REC sales into their mix of services, as one very small share of their overall operations. These established utilities do not need to generate additional revenue through REC sales because they use their profits from selling electricity generated by coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy to provide a tiny subsidy to their purchases of clean energy RECs. By contrast, because REC sales are one of Pear Energy’s main activities, a portion of our charges must go to supporting our staff and our business operations. So, to summarize: 100 percent of all of our business activity supports the development of green energy in the U.S.
So imagine my surprise yesterday, when I received this email.
Dear Marika Stone,
Your Pear Energy account is officially closed as of November 10, 2014. As previously mentioned, Pear Energy is no longer offering our residential renewable energy service for homes and small businesses.
- You will receive utility bills again. Please make payments directly to FPL normally. In addition, you may be receiving a verification email from your utility due to the recent changes made on your account.
Thank you again for supporting renewable energy and helping to build the green economy.
The Billing Department
Apparently, I wasn’t the only customer who was upset at the news because today, another email arrived from Pear Energy offering us renewable energy via one of its partners, Acadia Power. We’ll look before we leap, of course. I won’t be surprised if there is a whole lot more of this kind of shaking out as we move toward renewables, and neither should you be. In fact, I welcome it. Stay tuned
REC – Renewable Energy Certificates
One thought on “Greenier Than Thou?”
I looked into this when I first received a solicitation from Pear earlier this year. I found the explanations of its service transparent, although the process itself is a bit complicated. My main concern is tracking. For instance, I have heard that in some parts of Texas the demand for renewable energy exceeds its supply, and that there is a “waiting list” for residents to join the power company’s “green” energy program. Which is great(!), if what I heard was accurate, because market forces are pushing to expand wind or solar construction, thus creating jobs, etc.
The local utility can then respond in one of 2 ways: It can build the infrastructure itself (or else subsidize efficiency projects in the community); or it can buy the clean energy from the grid. If they do the latter, then a company somewhere else (I assume in the US) is producing the clean energy. The more profitable it becomes, the more wind turbines (for example) it will build, thus creating jobs in that community, and a larger proportion of total energy usage will be green. Does that make sense?
So Pear (and now Acadia) is the middleman, so to speak, and they help to aggregate financing that we wouldn’t need if we could all afford to put up solar panels and insulate our houses on our own (actually the government has an interest in making us energy self-sufficient, but it shows no signs of doing that any time soon, so never mind). I hope Pear will correct me where I misunderstand.
Back to my question: Who does the tracking? In Wisconsin, we can “choose” to have 50% or 100% of our power coming from “green” sources, for an additional fee, supposedly to support our utility’s upfront costs of developing cleaner energy. After a decade or so of my investment, my utility’s annual report shows zero progress. Only 1% of our energy is clean; exactly the same as the year before. The price for clean energy should be coming down if we’re all “investing” in this way. I accept that good, green-minded people at Pear are going to invest my money more wisely than Big Oil/Coal (“we have Walker in our pocket”), and I’d love to help. But in real dollars our household income keeps dropping, and I need solid statistics and results. After 10 years of Wisconsin’s feeble efforts, I do have to wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off to have saved that money and put up the solar panels on our own house and to heck with the rest of our community. That’s not the kind of person I want to be; but my family has to come first, and there’s only so much we can do.
So Pear/Acadia, if I take the money out of my utility’s green program and give it to yours and then some, how will you help climate change, my neighbors, and my family, too?