From: Cara Baruzzi, New Haven Register
Published June 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Few in Connecticut Using Renewable Energy

More than two months after being given the option of going "green," fewer than 1 percent of electric customers in Connecticut have.


Two suppliers started offering so-called "green power" -- generated by renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and garbage burning -- through the state's two major utility companies April 1.


About 2,300 of Connecticut Light & Power Co.'s 1.1 million customers statewide have signed up for the program, said spokesman Philip C. Vece.


At United Illuminating Co., which serves 310,000 customers in the New Haven and Bridgeport areas, about 250 customers are on board, said Beryl Lyons, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Utility Control.


"It's not a whole lot," she said.


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The voluntary program, which allows customers to have either 50 or 100 percent of their electricity generated from renewable sources, comes at a price. Depending on which supplier they choose and the percentage of electricity they want to be green, the average customer pays an additional $2.88 to $6.50 a month.


The cost may deter some customers from enrolling, Lyons said.


But despite having only 0.2 percent of electric customers sign up so far, utility companies and green power suppliers say the program is a success and expect more people to enroll.


"We're actually really excited about how it's going," said Amy McGinty, utility programs manager for Pennsylvania-based Community Energy, one of the two green power suppliers approved by the DPUC for the program.


Connecticut's green program is among the most successful in which the company participates, McGinty said.


"It's certainly met our expectation so far, and maybe even exceeded it," said Jeff Keeler, Community Energy's New England director.


There has been some confusion, though, regarding bill inserts sent to customers in April explaining the program, McGinty said.


Some customers misread the explanation of Community Energy's pricing, she said, mistaking a charge of 1.1 cents per kilowatt hour as $1.10 per kilowatt hour, McGinty said.


The company is clarifying the explanation for subsequent bill inserts this fall, she said.


Atlanta-based Sterling Planet, the other DPUC-approved green supplier, encountered similar misunderstandings and also will tweak its fall bill inserts, said Bob Maddox, the company's Northeast regional manager.


Despite that, however, the program is "off to a great start," he said.


"For the first two months, it's good," Maddox said of the 1,600 people who have signed up with his company. "It takes a little time. We expect it will be quite a bit higher as we go on."


Sterling Planet and Community Energy each have offices in Connecticut. Sterling Planet is in Bethlehem; Community Energy in Madison.


They are the only green suppliers approved by the DPUC to supply green power through UI and CL&P. Under state law, consumers can buy green power from other suppliers, but must do so independently.


Based on increased traffic to its green power Web site recently, CL&P officials expect more customers to choose the option, Vece said.


UI officials also expect interest in the program to grow, said spokeswoman Anita Steeves.


When the program launched, company officials did not have specific expectations regarding how many customers would sign up, she said.


"We really didn't have any idea because this is something new," she said.


To see more of New Haven Register, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.nhregister.com.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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