Sunday, January 22, 2006

But Who's Going to Pay for It?

That's a question I hear a lot, so I thought I'd link to this article from the Northwest Indiana Times not only for the information on voluntary programs (which is pretty thorough) , but also to discuss this thorny issue (most recently addressed in comments by Rusty and Romehater). Voluntary programs look great on the surface, but I wonder if they can truly pay the costs of renewable energy generation. Of course, if we continue to see big companies like Whole Foods and Fed-Ex Kinko's joining these programs, that problem might solve itself. Requiring renewables is likely much more attractive for utility companies, but does mean raising the power bills of people who have trouble paying them now. We can argue in the long run that costs will go down (and that seems a pretty safe bet considering how natural gas is skyrocketing), but that still leaves some of our poorest vulnerable in the short term.

I do think a gradual shift to renewables is smart on many levels, and I'm glad to see so many states looking at renewable portfolio standards. I hope the question of higher costs for poorer people is being addressed, though. Would a subsidy for low-income utility customers make sense as a long-term investment in a more sustainable energy infrastructure, or would we simply be externalizing costs? I honestly don't know, so let's hear what you have to say...

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