A number of companies, including SolarCity, SunRun, and Sungevity, have succeeded in making it easy for homeowners to lease (or buy) rooftop solar panels without paying a lot upfront. But what about those of us who rent? We don’t have much choice in the matter; just try convincing the average landlord that it’s in their best interest to go solar.
Tom Matzzie, a former organizer with MoveOn.org is gearing up to offer an alternative: Ethical Electric, a startup that is billing itself as "America’s first socially responsible energy supply company for your home." Fill out a simple online form, and the money you pay on your electricity bill goes to supporting a new solar or wind farm, regardless of whether you rent or own.
There are ways today to buy renewable power from energy suppliers. But the process is difficult enough that it turns off many potential customers. Plus, says Matzzie, "If you enroll with one of those other companies, you’ll support a hydroelectric dam built 70 years ago or a wind farm built 15 years ago. That’s not new renewable energy." Ethical Energy, in contrast, will let customers buy clean energy from nearby—and more importantly, new—clean energy projects.
"Your power bill and the choices you make around your power bill are decisions that can influence the energy economy," says Matzzie.
When Ethical Electric opens up to customers in the third quarter of this year, it will offer two options. One product will allow customers to buy a share in a community solar installation and have all power generated be counted against their power bill. The other option is a program that matches customers’ power consumption with renewable energy credits from nearby projects. Only solar and wind projects will be used.
This is only possible in the 14 states where the energy market is deregulated—i.e. where selling power is separate from maintaining the grid infrastructure. "The dollar that comes out of [customers’] homes goes somewhere else, but the power coming in isn’t different," explains Mattzie.
Ethical Electric is starting with New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but will expand within the first two months of operation. According to Matzzie, Ethical Electric’s services will be competitively priced with other energy sources.
Says Matzzie: "I believe that there are millions of people who will choose a better option if it exists."