Warming up to clean energy

Feb. 3, 2007, midnight | By Molly Reed | 17 years, 3 months ago

The average American generates about one and a half tons of solid waste per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But that figure pales in comparison to the five tons of carbon dioxide emissions each person produces annually through their daily actions and activities, as estimated by the Earth Policy Institute.

That's five tons of invisible gas that has a proven ability to melt ice caps, produce heat waves and intensify hurricanes and tornadoes, according to the National Environmental Trust. While nationwide recycling efforts are reducing the amount of solid waste in our landfills, more needs to be done about air pollution.

A new county program implemented on Jan. 1 encourages citizens to reduce their environmental footprint by compensating citizens who choose to buy clean energy, or electricity made from renewable sources. With these new financial incentives in place, there's no reason for residents not to take advantage of solar and wind power options that electricity companies offer.

These financial rewards only sweeten the environmental advantages of switching to clean, renewable energy sources. The effects of global warming " rising oceans, higher temperatures and changing weather patterns worldwide " indicate the damage humans may have already done to the earth. It's important that everyone do their part, however small, to prevent further harm to the environment.

The polar ice caps are melting at the rate of nine percent each decade, according to a study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which has caused sea levels to rise six inches worldwide. But a phone call to your power company can go a long way towards avoiding the repercussions of global warming.

The Clean Energy Partnership, a Silver Spring-based environmental organization, estimates that if the average family switches to 100 percent wind power, they will be able to prevent the release of about 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for each 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy they use. For the average household, that translates to about 7.7 fewer tons of carbon dioxide output per year.

As an added bonus, the Clean Energy Rewards program removes the financial burden from county residents, reimbursing residents one cent for each kWh of clean energy they use, up to a maximum 20,000 kWh. Non-residential groups, including businesses and congregations, will receive one and a half cents for each of the first 100,000 kWh of clean energy they consume, according to the Montgomery County web site. Although the compensation does not completely cover the extra cost of clean energy, which is about 2.5 cents per kWh, as estimated by the county Department of Environmental Protection, they do offset about 40 percent of the additional cost.

With average household consumption at about 11,000 kWh of energy each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average annual savings under the new program would be $110. This means that switching to clean energy would only cost households an additional $13.75 per month.

Pepco, Washington Gas, Clean Currents and WindCurrent all offer solar or wind power options to consumers, meaning that you can reduce your emissions without changing your lifestyle. You simply have to call your energy provider and ask to switch to wind or solar energy. Most energy providers automatically deduct the reimbursement directly from customers' monthly billing statements, so all consumers need to do is sign up for the program.

Residents and non-residential groups alike can also benefit from using energy produced by solar panels. The Maryland Energy Administration already offers grants of up to $3,000 for homeowners that install solar panels. These grants, along with the added reward for each kWh of electricity produced by solar panels, mean that the panels will essentially pay for themselves.

For Montgomery County residents, there is no better time to switch to clean energy sources. As more families and businesses begin to use wind or solar power, energy providers will burn fewer fossil fuels and release less pollution into the air we breathe. Through a simple phone call to their energy providers, Blazers and their families can ensure a cleaner future.

To get involved, visit http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov to learn about clean energy, or call your energy provider.

Molly Reed. Molly is a conspiracy theorist who thinks the world is flat, the president is a robot, and "french" is a made-up language, created on a whim by her teacher. She lives in the middle of nowhere and enjoys raising barns, growing turnips and feeding her … More »

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