“Has anyone else received the Clean Energy Option mailer?”

by Prince Of Petworth July 27, 2016 at 1:50 pm 40 Comments

clean energy

“Has anyone else received the Clean Energy Option mailer? I am curious if others have switched and if so what your thoughts are? Any issues to date? Is it a huge price increase? I’d really like to do this to support Clean Energy but don’t feel like I know enough about the program.”

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  • Eric Luntz

    I received this about a month ago. Looked like a scam to me so I threw it away.


    I signed up a while ago and we have had this option for about year or so without any issue. I didn’t find it to be that much more expensive than normal PEPCO bills.

  • Dante

    Put it in the trash unless you like paying higher bills.

    • Stink Eye

      Do you buy brand name clothing? Some people want to pay extra for the Nike logo. Other people want to pay extra to prevent climate change.

    • Truxton Thomas

      What if the benefit outweighs the cost?

  • jcm

    It’s not a scam. It is true DC residents can choose the supplier for their electricity, and it is true that we can buy 100% wind power. The DC PSC has a very helpful flyer (updated monthly) that lists all potential supliers and the prices they are charging. You can usually lock your price for 6 or 12 months, and then you need to enter another contract or the price will float.
    Choosing 100% wind power is slightly more expensive. This month, Pepco is charging .0805 per kWH. A 700 kWh bill using the Pepco standard rate would be $86.69. You can get 100% wind from NRG for .094 per kWh, whihc would increase the monthly bill to $96.21. You still get billed by Pepco, and they are still responsible for the lines running into your home.
    FYI you can also choose your natural gas supplier, and some of them offer carbon offsets for a fairly reasonable price.

    • Jim

      Any idea where can find out more about the natural gas supplier? Is it still serviced by Washington Gas (i.e., playing the role of pepco in maintaining lines and such)?

  • FJ

    I have looked into this and several other similar options. Reddit has a useful post breaking down the pros and cons. Essentially you’re subsidizing renewable energy by getting PEPCO to “obtain” your portion of its energy from a renewable energy supplier. Several different companies offer this service. That mailer is from Ethical Electric, which I’m considering going with since their pricing is more straightforward. (~$0.11/kWh as opposed to ~$0.08x which is what we currently pay). You can also purchase renewable energy from Clearview Energy, Groundswell, or Viridian, as identified by DC gov’t here: here: http://doee.dc.gov/service/buy-green-power.
    My bottom line conclusion is that this is more expensive (~30% kWh) than regular electricity, but is a legitimate way to try and subsidize green energy. Keep in mind that it won’t increase your bill by 30%, just the portion of your bill that is electricity.
    My only complaint is that some of the suppliers use mildly skeevy marketing techniques and opaque pricing to try and hide the added cost, very similar to loan products. If you’re interested in switching to renewable-sourced energy, review all your options before making a decision. Look for additional costs such as early termination fees or short-term fixed-price agreements that can climb significantly after the introductory period is over. For example, at least one company advertised $0.08/kWh, but with a $100+ termination fee if you switched back to pepco sooner than 12 months. Good luck!

    • HaileUnlikely

      I agree with all of this. I have been getting my power from Ethical Electric for approximately 3 years now and have been very pleased with them. I agree that the “Clean Energy Option” mailer is kind of deceptive and I do not particularly like it from a marketing and customer-relations standpoint, and it is admittedly slightly more expensive than PEPCO’s current pricing, but it is not a scam.

    • Anon

      I’ve been using Ethical Energy for the past 2+ years, and have no complaints. It’s just as you described, a few cents more per kWh. Not really a huge impact on my bill, and one I don’t mind paying.

    • Anon

      They use more than mildly skeevy tactics. Their mailings and constant phone calls imply that I will be cut off from electricity if I don’t pick a provider and they don’t disclose that not picking one means you stay with regular Pepco service. I can see it being confusing for people who won’t understand that they’re trying to up-sell you a product. Highly unethical.

      • Eric Luntz

        Agreed. I thought their mailer was deliberately deceptive and designed to look like official government correspondence.

  • jcm

    Forgot to link to the flyer. The one for electricity is here:
    I have had 100% regional wind power for several years. Over the last year I have used 6,833 kWh, so switching to 100% renewable has cost me approximately $200 this year.

    • Truxton Thomas

      Thank you for this! Very good info. Seems like it’s worth it to me. I’m signing up.

      • jcm

        Great. I recommend you set a reminder in you calendar for 12 months out. Ethical Electric switched me to a much more expensive monthly plan when my 12 month contract ran out, and didn’t notify me at all. I just happened to notice while looking at the electric bill. That didn’t seem terribly ethical to me, so I switched to a different company, and now I have a reminder so it doesn’t happen again.

  • nust

    Having worked at a power pool let me explain this to you in the simplest terms:

    What you pay: more
    what you get: electricity (same as usual)
    where you get it: same place as everyone else
    how you feel: all green and happy inside

    Here is the problem. You are paying more to the electricity company (pepco) to make sure they source more of their energy from elsewhere. You aren’t magically getting a direct feed from a windmill, you are probably getting coal power like the rest of us. What you are paying is a carbon offset fee which will barely increase the amount of money the power company sources from green power companies.

    Whatever makes you feel good i guess…

    • Truxton Thomas

      Is there a better way to incentivize an electric utility to use renewable sources? Because throwing money at a problem works for me. ;)

      • NY Utility Nerd

        Many states, including DC, have renewable portfolio standards. The upshot of them is that energy suppliers who serve DC load must purchase what are called renewable energy credits from wind, solar, and other renewable generators- this basically provides a subsidy to make them more cost-competitive with natural gas and coal. This has the effect of socializing across all ratepayers the cost of electricity. While this all sounds great, until yesterday the DC target for renewables was pretty low- rising to 22.5% by 2023. But Bowser just signed a new bill making it 50% by 2032, which is a pretty big deal (it also creates a program to spur more solar installation for low-income homeowners). http://mayor.dc.gov/release/mayor-bowser-signs-renewable-portfolio-standard-bill-law

        Of course, it’s not as simple as setting targets and creating these credits. New York is also likely to finalize its own Clean Energy Standard next week, with a target of 50% by 2030 (and it already gets 26% from renewables). But in addition, it has a “Reforming the Energy Vision” proceeding, which basically will create a host of enabling policies on the utility side to complement the renewables targets. Here’s a readable intro to the topic from October, although a lot of policies have come further along since this was written: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/5/9453131/new-york-utilities-rev

    • jcm

      That’s not true. You aren’t just paying a carbon offset fee. You are increasing the market demand for renewable energy. When Ethical Electric or whoever else you choose buys a REC, that means someone had to actually generate a mWH of energy from windmills. It’s a much more straightforward mechanism than carbon offsets.

      • bruno

        And when something is a little more expensive, that gives me incentive to use a little less of it… so the cost about averages out for me, and I help the enviro by using less energy too. I must say the precursor company (Clean Currents?) went belly-up and was disastrous.

        • JoDa

          I had Clean Currents. While it did go belly up, it wasn’t “disastrous” for their subscribers. They just sent me an email (and probably a letter, but I actually read the email) that they were ceasing operations and I would automatically be switched back to Pepco’s standard offer service. Caused exactly zero confusion or hardship for me, except shopping for a new provider. I use Clearview now, recommended by neighbors.

        • Nathan

          That’s right. I think Clean Currents was not fully hedged during the polar vortex and when wholesale PJM prices jumped they couldn’t purchase what they needed for their customers.

          • bruno

            Right. That’s what I meant by disastrous — it was a disastrous company…. they met with disaster…… and yet I stuck with wind!

    • [rrrrr]

      This seems a bit of an unfair characterization. Sure the electricity in my walls won’t change at all, but if I understand you and others correctly, the total amount of coal power purchased by PEPCO will go down by roughly the amount I use each month.

    • Ian

      You aren’t actually paying PEPCO more, you’re paying the retail energy company more to source clean energy for you.

  • P. Lecheval

    I switched to a plan last October that utilizes only artisanal sources of electricity and I couldn’t be happier. Much of January’s power was generated by the burning of urban chicken waste sourced from a young man who wears suspenders, has a handlebar mustache and lives in Shaw. And in march, a significant amount of my electricity was supplied by burning fuel created with signature craft cocktails.

    • Ben

      Scientists are still working on harnessing the power of chef-driven small plates, a seemingly endless source of energy.

    • T

      +1, ha!

  • Hey Anna,

    I work at Clean Energy Option, which is a brand of Ethical Electric. We’re a local DC business, a certified B Corp and a supplier of 100% clean, renewable energy from wind and solar power. You can learn more about how it works here: https://cleanenergyoption.com/how-it-works/ If you call this number, 1-800-815-1347, and sign up then we’ll give you $25 when you start our service.

    Clean energy does cost more than Pepco’s mix of mostly non-renewable sources like coal, oil, and natural gas from fracking. And it could be compared to organic produce, or a hybrid car. While you may pay more for them than the alternative, you have to consider the difference your choice makes. When it comes to clean energy, you’re paying for cleaner air, a cleaner earth, and a cleaner future.

    Thanks for considering the switch to clean energy,
    Ross, Clean Energy Option

  • bruno

    I signed up in 2012, with its precursor. So far so good! I wanted to support wind energy.

    • bruno

      Oh, and I think I got a #35 gift certificate from Java House for signing up. Not sure the offer still stands.

  • Data Point

    I used to get energy from Clean Currents, which was kind of too cheap to last tbh (https://www.popville.com/2014/02/clean-currents-utility-ceases-operations/).

    Now I’m with Clearview Energy. Rates are cheaper than those in the mailers I get (I scoff at the disparity every time I see it). Price is locked in for a year, and I’m curious to see what happens after that.

  • MtP

    We use WGL Energy Services, which provides wind power. Not sure if we actually get *our* power from wind or if us paying the little extra forces Pepco to buy more wind power, but either way, we are doing our little part to help. It honestly hasn’t been that much more expensive, and is a price I am willing to pay to do a part for a very serious problem.

  • jsauri

    I switched over and my bill did increase noticeably (about 25%). Presumably, the more people join, the more the market grow for renewable energy sources. And maybe some day energy prices stabilize. However, you will definitely not notice any difference in your own service. So it’s mostly about whether you want to feel good about being green.

  • Anna

    Thank you so much! This is incredibly helpful.

  • Ivy City Tommy

    Its a scammy company in DC called “Ethical” Electric. They send out mailers that look official goverment-y and when you sign up they might buy clean energy but they cramm huge charges on you after a month or so.

    If you want clean energy you should sign up for SoalrCity or sign up for an honest DC company like Arcadia Power which gives 50% clean energy with no huge rate hike (in fact, I think its same as pepco rate)

    • Ian

      A few corrections: Arcadia Power isn’t actually sourcing you clean energy, they’re just buying renewable energy certificates on your behalf. That’s different than purchasing the actual power to get it on the grid and also one of the reasons why it’s cheaper. The charges are clearly listed as variable in the Clean Energy Option mailers after a 3 month rate. If you wanted a 12 month rate, they offer that as well.

      It’s important to do more research on this industry before calling anyone out as scammy. The utilities and public utilities commissions are just as “scammy” if not more so than these retail energy companies.

  • Jay

    That flyer is sketchy and misleading.

    I feel this is just away for people to run their AC constantly and not feel guilty about it.

    So, just pay Pepco more each month and fingers crossed that the extra money is some how involved with cleaner energy… somehow… somewhere right? Because Pepco is always on top of their game right?


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