Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Green Miles Buys Green Power III: Convincing Pepco to Take My Money

As I detailed earlier this week, Dominion Virginia Power won't sell me renewable energy directly and their system for buying it through a third party is really convoluted.

The nice Dominion lady I talked to recommended going straight to the Virginia Energy Choice website to check out my energy options directly. I clicked through a couple of the power providers and it seemed like Pepco was my best bet. I say "best" meaning "willing to charge me twice as much as I pay now but at least they'll sell me renewable energy at all."

However, I was reluctant to start forking over twice as much for power considering what little detail the Pepco website offered. Would they bill me directly through Dominion? Would the twice-as-much be on top of what Dominion charged me, or would that replace what Dominion charged me? The website offered few answers.

I tried calling Pepco. But as I'm sure you've experienced with what passes for customer service these days, I was shunted off to various automated answer lines. Finally I got an operator and said, "I'm a residential customer in Virginia who wants to buy renewable energy through Pepco." Surely such a direct plea to give them my money would result in action!

So she transferred me to voicemail. In fact, I left two voicemails that day saying I wanted to buy renewable energy from Pepco, but didn't hear back. Finally I told the operator of my plight and she said, "Oh, the person who handles that is off today."

Renewable energy in Virginia is such a priority for power companies, there's a total of one person assigned to it. And you wonder why I keep calling for the federal government to set a
strong national renewable energy standard.

The next week I traded voicemails with a customer service agent. And the week after that. It took me about a month to finally connect. She confirmed that Pepco would bill me directly through Dominion, meaning I would still only get one power bill. This is how the third party system works:

- I tell Pepco I want to buy renewable energy
- Dominion tells Pepco how much energy I've used in a given month, and buys that much renewable power from Pepco
- Dominion bills me for what Pepco charged them
According to Pepco's, here are my options:

Green mix (hydro, solar, wind and biomass) -- $0.1018/kilowatt hour
Wind only -- $0.1098/kilowatt hour

So how would switching to those options impact my power bill? Tomorrow we will, in the words of the immortal MC Hammer ... break it down.

Monday -- The Green Miles Buys Green Power I: The Adventure Begins
Tuesday -- The Green Miles Buys Green Power II: Even Dominion Workers Think Dominion's Process Sucks
Wednesday -- The Green Miles Buys Green Power III: Convincing Pepco to Take My Money
Thursday -- The Green Miles Buys Green Power IV: The Bottom Line
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