State clean energy program ranks in national top 10

For the second year in a row, Connecticut’s Clean Energy Options program – a voluntary program under which utility customers can purchase alternative green energy – is rated among the top 10 utility-run green power programs in the U.S. That’s pretty heady company given that about 850 utilities offer such programs and many of the regulars on the list are from much larger states or even groups of states.

In April 2005, under state mandate, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating began offering clean energy alternatives to customers. For a slight premium, customers could purchase all or half their power from alternative sources provided by clean energy companies.

Annual data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that in 2010, CL&P and UI did combined sales of nearly 230 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy, placing them at No. 7 on the list. That’s up from about 198 million a year in 2009, when they were also No. 7. They’ve remained behind utilities that service Austin, Portland, Oregon, and PacifiCorp – a six-state utility.

The Connecticut utilities also clocked in at No. 7, up one from 2009, for total number of customer participants – a little more than 24,000. But with about 1.5 million customers at CL&P and UI, the state’s utilities don’t make the top 10 in terms of the customer participation rate or green power sales as a percentage of total retail electricity sales.

The Clean Energy Options program presently offers services from two power providers – Sterling Planet and Community Energy – each of which supplies a mix of wind and hydropower. Sterling provides about 85 percent wind and 15 percent hydro. Community does about two-thirds wind to one-third hydro at a slightly higher premium than Sterling. For a home that uses 700 kWh per month, that’s an additional $8 to $9 a month to purchase clean energy only.

Signing up for the Clean Energy Option doesn’t mean wind or hydro-generated electricity is actually coming into your door. Essentially, you’re paying the extra to insure that clean energy is going into the power grid somewhere.