Why Your Utility Eco-Choice Option is Not as Green as it Seems

Sullivan Solar Power
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Photo Credit: Kuma Kum

Homeowners in both San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) utility territories have likely seen recent advertisements to opt for “Eco-Choice” or “100% Green” energy rates instead of going solar. The investor owned utility makes bold claims that these rates allow you to receive 100% renewable energy and reduce your carbon footprint, all at little to no additional cost.

Unfortunately, we believe these claims are misleading for a number of reasons.

No Renewable Energy Guarantee

These rates do not guarantee that the electricity coming into your home is actually renewable. You do not have a special power line separate from what your neighbors are using. This rate only allows the utility to potentially invest in or purchase renewable energy at their discretion; it does not mean that the energy flowing into your house from their lines is 100% renewable. In contrast, with solar, when the sun is shining your home (and vehicle) will be using clean energy directly from the sun.

No Higher Level Financial Benefits

Eco-Choice does not contribute to your financial independence, or develop your energy savings. With solar, you are investing in, and owning, your own energy. Each owned project has a return on investment (ROI) metric, and includes short and long-term savings. With the Eco-Choice program from the investor owned utility, homeowners are “renting” energy from a monopoly utility, throwing away money month after month instead of investing in your own power.

Lack of Local Development

When you go solar, you are generating energy in a way that is a local as it gets — your own roof. Even if SDG&E or SCE invests in purchasing renewable sources, they are likely from utility-scale power plants hundreds of miles away, sometimes even across state lines. This does not work towards improving our degrading long-distance transmission infrastructure, which has been a cause for wildfires, or stimulate our local economy. Local rooftop solar can contribute to microgrids, where we can have access to local power in the event of emergencies like wildfires or blackouts while providing local economic development.

Invest in Yourself

Whom and what do you ultimately want your dollars to support? A monopoly utility that is constantly burdening ratepayers with costs for their negligence while providing millions of dollars in bonuses to their executives, or investing in yourself, your home, your grid independence, your family and your own savings?

Thankfully, programs like Community Choice Energy are developing in cities across Southern California, to provide better and more sustainable energy options for those who are unable to install their own solar power systems due to financial or structural challenges. Community Choice Energy programs are not for profit entities that purchase renewable energy on behalf of their ratepayers, while also reinvesting dollars back into community programs and in many cases prioritizing local renewable energy projects and jobs.

However, if going solar is a feasible option, it is truly the best way to have a positive impact for the future of our world, and for your own financial savings.

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