Updated April 19, 2021
Here is a guide to different options for households interested in sourcing more of their energy usage from renewables.
Step 1: Maximize your home’s energy efficiency
The cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. Before making a large or long-term investment in renewable power, make sure you’ve taken advantage of all of the cost-effective energy efficiency in your home. A good place to start is scheduling a home energy audit for personalized information to make your home more energy efficient.
Step 2: Evaluate your options
Residents and businesses may want to operate their own power generation equipment and install solar panels to serve their electricity needs. Your electric utility will connect your equipment to the power lines and compensate you for the power produced.
As rooftop solar grows in popularity, some utilities are experienced in connecting installations to the power grid, while others are still new to the process. It’s important to check with your local government about potential regulations regarding the location of energy generation.
For more information on rooftop solar, the Public Utilities Commission website has a great guide discussing distributed energy resources and net metering and compensation. Also worth checking out is Clean Energy Resource Teams’ solar guide and solar app, which allows you to assess a site for its solar suitability.
Community solar gardens are owned by private companies, electric utilities, or other organizations. Individuals or businesses can then buy shares or subscriptions in community solar gardens. Community solar is an option for renters, people whose properties are shaded or can’t support solar panels, or others who can’t or prefer not to install their own solar panels.
Community solar programs vary widely and may require you to sign a multi-decade contract, so it’s important to make sure you understand the fine print.
For more on community solar and questions, you should ask before signing up, check out these community solar guides from CUB and CERTS.
Renewable energy programs
Many electric utilities offer optional renewable energy programs for their customers. These programs may include wind power, solar power, or both. They are another option for households interested in drawing all or a portion of their energy from renewable sources. Both renters and homeowners are eligible for these types of programs.
These programs typically add a small charge to your bill. Participating in these programs allows consumers to transition to more sustainable energy sourcing by adding renewable energy to the grid above and beyond what the utility is already attaining. Terms of commitment, early termination, and additional costs may vary depending on the program, so be sure to check with your utility provider to confirm program specifications.
Here is a more comprehensive list of renewable energy programs:
Step 3: Decide on the best option
When choosing the best option for your home, it is important to consider your own personal goals, resources, and household conditions. For example, be sure to look at different commitment levels and long-term obligations of different options and how that might look for your household. As always, you can contact CUB to talk through your situation or for more information.