US electricity retailers are ditching fossil fuels


Momentary synchronicity struck the U.S. energy world this week, as three different retail electric providers in three very different parts of the country have announced plans or programs for their customers to have 100% of their electricity needs sourced from renewable energy.

The three progressive providers are Portland General Electric in Oregon, Virginia’s Appalachian Power, and Gexa Energy out of Houston, Texas. And while the offerings are all for 100% renewable electricity, the three are not made the same and have some pretty different circumstances.

For starters, Appalachian Power’s Wind Water & Sunlight service will supply 100% renewable power to any customer in Virginia using renewable resources from the company’s generation portfolio. The innovation will come with a modest $.00425/kWh bull premium added to all participating customers. For the average 1,000 kWh/per month customer, this represents a $4.25 increase in their bill, up from the original $110.79 prior to the Wind Water & Sunlight service. This premium represents a cost of 11.5 cents/kWh, which is actually lower than the national average of 13.16 cents/kWh – and that national average isn’t factoring in 100% renewable generation.

Portland General Electric’s plan is dubbed the “Green Future Impact” and will be available only to large commercial and industrial customers. The company has also said that “pricing reflects the actual cost of producing and delivering the energy from a specific facility,” meaning that it will likely cost customers a bit more than their current power portfolio. Since the program opened, more than 160 MW of generation have been applied for, with Portland General Electric anticipating total procurement for this program to reach the 300 MW benchmark.

On the flip side of Portland General Electric’s offering, Gexa Energy’s program will apply to all future residential customers. Gexa’s initiative will also be the only one of the three to feature the provided service at no additional cost to customers.

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The seeds of revolution are planted and grown in the smallest outlets of support. These outlets have the least trouble changing to conform to the new norm and can end up influencing bigger, more powerful entities to join the cause through sheer growing numbers. The same is true of the energy revolution. We aren’t going to wake up any day in the near future to find out that Duke Energy Progress or Florida Power and Light or Arizona Public Service have made the switch to 100% renewable energy.

It doesn’t happen like that – these things take time. And one of the reasons these things take time is that smaller-scale adoption has to take off to convince the larger utilities that 100% renewable generation is a societal want and that there’s a customer base demanding this that can’t be ignored.

By Tim Sylvia

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