As part of its ongoing effort to become greener, San Miguel Power Association has launched a new program that allows customers to obtain electricity from 100 percent renewable sources for anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars a month.
And lest you think it's some sort of gimmick, the rural electric cooperative has followed suit, purchasing enough renewable energy certificates to ensure its offices and facilities in Ridgway, Nucla, Silverton and Telluride are fully powered by carbon-free sources like solar, wind and hydropower.
"If we're going to be asking our members to do this, we should take the lead and go green ourselves," SMPA spokesman Alex Shelley said.
SMPA customers can sign up for a 1 cent-per-kilowatt-hour bill adjustment. The voluntary program tracks customers' energy usage and makes the appropriate investment in renewable energy each month.
The cost depends on where you live and how much energy you use. Generally speaking, SMPA estimates Totally Green will cost a customer whose average monthly bill is $25 an additional 23 cents a month, and an extra $1.70 for each $25 of additional bill.
The money generated by members' contributions goes into SMPA's green fund, which supports local renewable energy development and energy efficiency projects. Shelley noted that fund has helped pay for the solar array in Norwood and power purchase agreements with area hydroelectric power plants, including the one at Ridgway Dam.
"It's a way that regular people who are not involved in the power industry and have other jobs and lives can actually make a difference," Shelley said.
SMPA made the renewable energy conversion with all of its offices and facilities earlier this month by purchasing renewable energy certificates. A certificate is created every time a megawatt hour of electricity is produced from a qualified renewable energy producer, Shelley said.
He said SMPA budgeted $490 a month this year to purchase the certificates. That money also goes into the cooperative's green fund.
Totally Green joins a lineup of other SMPA programs aimed at encouraging the development and usage of more renewable energy.
SMPA has offered the so-called Green Cents and Green Blocks programs for about the last 10 years. With Green Cents, members choose to have their monthly bill rounded up to the nearest dollar. With Green Blocks, members can purchase renewable energy credits to offset their energy consumption.
Shelley, though, acknowledged that the Green Blocks program was complicated. And just 4 percent of SMPA's members participate in Green Blocks.
He said members of the Ridgway Ouray Community Council's clean energy committee asked SMPA to devise something simpler.
"The sky is the limit," he said of potential member participation in Totally Green.