Rural utility co-ops now are offering green pricing

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When Cathy McCrystal learned she could purchase clean, renewable energy for her Kanab home, she leapt at the chance.

Delivered by her local utility co-op Garkane Energy, her electricity still comes from the Western grid, but 300 kilowatt hours of renewable energy have been transferred into the pool in her name.

McCrystal moved from Las Vegas to Kanab five years ago to escape the air pollution. But the smog followed her, she says, obscuring the once-spectacular Grand Canyon view from her front door.

"The air, even out here in Kanab, is getting polluted," she says. "I doubt that my $5.85 [each month] is going to change the world, but it's a start."

Customers of Garkane, along with five other rural co-ops that belong to the South Jordan-based Deseret Power Electric Cooperative, now may participate in a "green pricing" program, which allows customers to pay the additional cost of renewable power and choose how their electricity is produced.

Dubbed GreenWay, the Deseret Power program gives co-op members the option to pay $1.95 per 100 kilowatt-hour block of renewable power on top of their monthly power bills. Deseret Power, which operates the coal-fed Bonanza Power Plant near Vernal, then buys that amount of power from a renewable energy producer.

"Cooperatives try to provide their members with different kinds of choices," says Keith Hill, Deseret Power's director of retail marketing. The member-owned utility provides electricity - and sometimes Internet service and propane - to 47,000 people in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona.

GreenWay is similar to Utah Power's Blue Sky program, which allows customers to purchase wind power at the same rate.

Almost 5 years old, Blue Sky now has enrolled close to 14,000 customers who collectively buy 3.5 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each month.

Renewable energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal power, has gained popularity in recent years as a way to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and cut down air pollution.

McCrystal's monthly 300 kilowatt-hour purchase will, over the course of a year, save 3,600 pounds of coal and prevent 7,200 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That's the equivalent of planting a 1.5-acre forest or not driving a car 7,500 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"In Utah, the majority of our electricity is generated by coal-powered plants. Many consumers would like to drive a clean energy system," says Sarah Wright, director of Utah Clean Energy, a nonprofit advocacy group. "By choosing renewable energy, they're letting their voices be heard."

Deseret Power cooperatives

l Bridger Valley Electric,, Mt. View, Wyo., 307-786-2800 or 800-276-3481

l Garkane Energy,, three Utah offices: Loa, 435-836-2795; Hatch, 435-735-4288; Kanab, 435-644-5026

l Mt. Wheeler Power,, Ely, Nev., 800-977-6937, 775-289-8981

l Moon Lake Electric Association Inc.,, Roosevelt, 435-722-2448

l Flowell Electric, Fillmore, 435-743-6214

l Dixie-Escalante Rural Electric Association, Beryl, 801-439-5311