In two years, PSNH could not get even 150 customers to pay more each month to buy electricity from “green” sources. The state’s largest utility has received permission to end its EarthSmart Green Rate program, and other utilities are considering following PSNH’s lead. That is worth discussing.
PSNH’s program has attracted only 148 participants though the company says it spent $75,000 to market it, New Hampshire Public Radio reported last week. Utility companies are required by law to offer these programs. But because the law does not require that people opt in, participation is very low. No utility in the state has a better participation rate than North American Power. Its rate is just 1.2 percent, NHPR reported.
Participation rates are much higher in some other parts of the country. Why not in New Hampshire, a famously environmentally friendly state? It is probably because Granite Staters are at least as frugal as they are environmentally concerned. These programs raise utility bills by an average of 30 percent, according to NHPR. That is a steep premium to pay so your house can be powered by wind or solar instead of coal or nuclear power.
That is why activists try to get governments to force people to go “green.” The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a great example. If Granite Staters were allowed to opt in, it would fail utterly. So the state mandates partcipation. The extra money we pay in higher utility costs is doled out to businesses, government agencies or individuals to make marginal energy efficiency improvements that save them money. Few would volunteer to pay more so others can reduce their electric bills, so the state forces us do it.
This is not just morally wrong, it is wasteful. We are made to needlessly pay more for energy, which reduces the amount of money we have to spend elsewhere in the economy. Environmental activists would do better to invest their energy and resources into improving the product they want us to buy so that everyone chooses to go green without having to be forced into it.