As the Mahopac News so clearly explained (Utility bills skyrocket, NYSEG customers caught off-guard, February 17, 2022), electricity bills have increased dramatically this winter. That trend is likely to continue too. Fortunately, there are solutions available to save money. And one is as easy as a few clicks of the mouse!
Why are energy prices so high? It’s more complicated than “supply and demand” because technically, the supply of oil and gas doesn’t change — unless you’re willing to wait 65 million years for more fossil fuels to develop! Oil and natural gas prices have always been cyclical, experiencing relatively low prices while large quantities of oil or gas are being extracted from the Earth, and high prices when oil and gas companies decrease extraction and even halt new development. That’s especially true for natural gas right now, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will only exacerbate the situation.
In fact, rising natural gas prices are a factor in our rising electricity bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than two thirds of New York’s electric generating capacity is fueled with natural gas. So expect more price increases for the foreseeable future.
Here’s the good news. The cost of electricity from wind and especially solar has declined dramatically. Over the past decade, the cost of residential solar PV electricity dropped from $7.51 to $2.71 per watt, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Today, solar is the least expensive energy source: three quarters of all new electricity generation is solar.
Even so, installing a rooftop solar PV system still isn’t for everyone. If you own your own home, plan to stay in it, have little shade and a relatively new roof, and you’re ready and able to make a large investment, you’re a good candidate for a solar PV system. And I encourage you to look into it! Learn more on our sustainableputnam.org website or contact us for a free consultation. But even if installing solar panels isn’t an option, you can still go solar.
Through a program called community solar, you can utilize solar electricity and achieve guaranteed savings on your utility bill. That’s because New York State has set targets for clean, renewable electricity — a “green grid” — and actively promotes community solar as one way to get us there. Here’s how it works. You subscribe to a solar farm in New York State. The solar farm (often literally on a farm), tells your utility to credit you with a portion of the electricity produced calculated to match your historical usage. Each month, you’ll see “solar credits” for that power, for which you pay the solar farm at 10% LESS than what you usually pay NYSEG. For example, if you use $100 of electricity in a month, you’ll pay only $90 through community solar, a $10 savings. You see it all on your utility bill.
And there’s more to like. You pay nothing to sign up. There is no equipment to install. You can cancel any time without penalties or fees. Your 10% discount is locked in for the life of the solar farm (often 20 years). Our state electric grid gets greener, and our air gets cleaner as less natural gas is burned. Climate changing greenhouse gas emissions decrease too. And New Yorkers get hired to construct solar farms, creating good jobs upstate, as farmers earn more for leasing fallow land to solar installers.
So what’s the catch? (I get asked that a lot.) There is none. Really. I know this sounds like the old late night commercials for a set of steak knives… (But wait! There’s more!) You can even subscribe online in just five minutes. More comfortable with a phone call? That works too. Through Solarize Putnam, a community solar program made available by Sustainable Putnam, you’ll also get a $100 gift card once your enrollment is completed.
In fact, if the Carmel Town Board chooses to participate, the town will also receive a $100 donation for each enrolled resident, and earn points toward certification as a Clean Energy Community, making available additional NYS energy grants. Kent, Phillipstown, and Putnam Valley have already participated, and will be saving on their town’s electric bills for years to come. Also, as a result of Solarize Putnam, we’re now eliminating 884 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in our county, year after year. What’s not to like?
Sustainable Putnam has offered this opportunity to Supervisor Cazzari and our town council members, and offered to schedule a meeting or a presentation to residents. Either way, the opportunity remains open to all Putnam residents at Solarize Putnam. While visiting our website, you can also learn other tips for saving money with lighting, appliances, and heating and cooling can be found. Just click over to our digital Toolkit. There you can even schedule an appointment for a free 45 minute consultation on any home energy project of your choice.
A version of this post was originally published as an op-ed in the Mahopac News, March 3, 2022.