OG&E recently added a new wind farm and they are now offering 3 options for purchasing wind power: 25, 50, or 100% power, at a very reasonable rates per kwh. I asked the customer care department for our added rate per month, and it was only $5.59. I signed us up for 100%! So easy, it feels like .... cheating? Well, it does cost an extra $60 a year, so I guess it's not cheating after all.
The Riot for Austerity "counts" electricity generated by wind power as only 1/4 of electricity generated by fossil fuels. Therefore the new total for our electricity will be about 2500 kwh. This brings us to within the 90% goal for electricity and heating, as calculated like this:
11,000 kwh per year (avg. American electric use) +
1000 therms = 29,300 kwh (avg. American nat. gas use in therms converted to kwh)
= 40,300 kwh total (total avg. American home energy use)
2500/ 40,300 = 6.2% of the American average.
The great thing is that all of our improvements and habit changes have required very little sacrifice, and have saved us a good amount of money. The Energy Star appliances we chose to buy did not cost any more than regular power hogs. It's no trouble to wash clothes in cold water or to turn off the "heated dry" switch on the dishwasher, or turn off lights when we're not in the room. CFL bulbs save us money, and so does turning off the energy vampires.
The geothermal system was a pain to have installed and was kind of pricey, but the geo system combined with insulation and weatherizing have saved us $400/year - so that was probably a good investment for the long term. Not the short term - it will take almost a decade to pay back our investment with the savings. Might be less if the cost of energy goes up significantly, which I think it will. Of course, there are new federal incentives of $2000 that make the geo systems a little more reasonable to purchase now.
If people knew how easy it was, how little sacrifice was required, and that the savings can be significant, I think the country could easily get our collective residential power usage down by 50%, and more with support and education from the government and the utility companies. Of course, our goal is 90% reduction, but I think the country, if it applied itself, could get residential power down by 50% pretty quickly. Then again, maybe I am being naive.
I read a study yesterday that showed that the main cause of over-consumption by Americans was the rise of single-person households and the construction of McMansions. Single-person households use 52.8% more energy than households of 3 people. And in fact, it's not the age of the home that determines the energy use, but the SIZE of the home. Additionally, as education and income levels rise so does energy consumption. Depressing.
Here's what my husband says when I tell him that we're now on renewable energy:
"So, it doesn't matter if I run the TV all evening?"
For a second I was stumped. I told him that the energy we use is still costing us money (in fact, more money now). Then I said that there was not going to be enough wind power for everyone, and the less we used the more someone else could use instead of using fossil fueled electricity. Does that explanation make sense? What would you say?