CUB has issued a consumer alert to educate consumers about renewable energy, or green, plans, which are electricity offers connected to renewable energy and advertised by alternative suppliers. Read this article and then order CUB's FREE guide on green plans:
1) Signing up for a “green” or “renewable energy” plan does NOT mean your home will be directly powered by solar or wind energy. When you turn on the TV, charge your cellphone, or crank on the air conditioner, there’s no way to guarantee that the electricity is coming from renewable energy. The power grid is constantly being fed by thousands of sources, from the dirtiest coal plant to a wind farm.
2) So what is a green plan? When you sign up for an alternative supplier’s green plan, that company will take some of your money to buy “Renewable Energy Certificates” or RECs. The REC market was created as a way to increase the incentive for developers to build renewable energy generation.
3) A green plan can be a legitimate choice for consumers, but beware that these offers can be significantly more expensive than the utility’s standard rate. You should also find out from the supplier where the RECs are from, how old they are, and whether they’re Green-e certified. Green-e is a consumer protection program (from the California nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions) designed to help people buy renewable energy from reputable, verifiable sources.
There are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint—while actually lowering your bills.
- Energy Efficiency Incentives. Illinois’ big electric utilities offer lighting discounts and rebates on all kinds of appliances and efficiency upgrades. Check out the opportunities for ComEd and Ameren customers. (CUB tip: Did you know that ComEd and Ameren offer a $100 rebate on smart thermostats?)
- ComEd Hourly Pricing and Ameren Power Smart Pricing. These programs can be a cheaper alternative to the utility’s static electricity rate. You pay a rate that can change hourly. These plans aren’t for everyone, but they have saved participants an average of 15 percent on the supply side of their bills. (Fun Fact: A CUB/EDF study found that 97 percent of ComEd customers would have saved an average of $86 on Hourly Pricing in 2016.)
- ComEd Peak Time Savings and Ameren Peak Time Rewards. These programs give you a bill credit if you’re able to reduce your energy usage for a limited number of hours on certain days (typically hot summer afternoons) when electricity demand is high. (Alternative: ComEd customers should consider Central AC Cycling, which can give you a total credit of $20-$40 on your summer bills.)
- Community Solar. Over the next year, CUB expects community solar projects to sprout up across Illinois. Such projects allow people to enjoy the benefits of solar power without actually having to install solar panels on their own homes. You subscribe to a portion of a "community solar garden" and then get credits on your electric bill in proportion to your share of the garden. (Also, read our fact sheet on whether rooftop solar is a good choice for you: CUB's Guide to Rooftop Solar.)
Want to learn more? Request CUB’s FREE, newly updated guide on renewable energy plans.