Q&A: The facts about renewable energy

windenergyQ. If I sign up for a ‘green’ electricity plan, does that ensure the power reaching my house is produced by wind, solar or another renewable energy?

A. Nope. Coal, natural gas and nuclear power are still being pumped through your transmission lines and into your home, most likely. But you are guaranteeing that the amount of renewable energy you are paying for will be piped into the power grid.

“Regardless of which retail electricity provider a customer chooses, there is no way to separate electricity on the power grid based on how it was generated,” says Juan Elizondo, a spokesman for TXU Energy. “When a consumer purchases a retail electricity plan with renewable electricity, that amount of renewable energy is put onto the power grid. It may or may not be the power that reaches that customer. Those consumers are ensuring that renewable power is put onto the grid, and they are supporting the further development of renewable resources.”

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“Think of the electric grid as a giant bathtub that is constantly being filled from many different faucets, and each one represents a different electricity generation source such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, etc.,” says Katie Ryan, spokeswoman for Green Mountain Energy. “Each time you use electricity, you drain a little water from the bathtub. As the demand for electricity from renewable sources increases, more of the clean water goes into the tub — and less of the dirty water from fossil fuel sources is needed.”

Q. Is there any way that renewable energy could grow so popular in Texas that customer demand would overtake supply?

A. Yes, in theory.

“The demand for renewable energy is what makes it grow,” Ryan says. “When demand exceeds supply, renewable energy gets built.”

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