Fenwick Island couple makes green power choice

OK, so a 35-foot windmill in the front yard isn’t for everybody. And for many people, even a rooftop turbine is financially out of the question. But, if coal or nuclear power just doesn’t cut it, there are others ways to “vote with your dollars.” And for Buzz and Betsy Henifin of Fenwick Island, changing electricity suppliers to one that offered an option for wind-powered electricity was even about saving money – at first.

Coastal Point • File Photo
After his church received a letter from Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES), inviting them to join at a discounted rate, Buzz Henifin got his church signed up and then signed up himself.

Originally, this allowed him a cheaper rate per kilowatt hour – something everyone can relate to.

“At first, I signed up because of the price, of course” he said.

But, as an added bonus, this new agreement allowed Henifin to be a part of the new wind energy program from Washington Gas, which provides 5 percent of his electrical power from wind.

However, Henifin – co-chair of the Fenwick Island Environmental Committee and a volunteer with the Center for Inland Bays – wanted to do more. So he took advantage of another program that WGES offered – although this time, it would come at a cost. But, for Henifin, it was worth it.

Over time, WGES offered Henifin, and customers like him, the opportunity to get either 50 or 100 percent of their power from wind. Henifin now pays a bit more for his power to gain that benefit but, because of the environmental impacts, he sees it as money well spent.

“Now, it’s about 13 and a half cents per kilowatt hour, but it’s still a good deal,” explained Henifin. “And I was willing to pay a little extra.”

Harry Warren of WGES said the number of people who have expressed interest in customer choice has increased from a couple hundred a few years ago into the thousands. WGES has about 200,000 customers in the Mid-Atlantic region and purchases their wind power from wind farms around the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia and into Ohio.

Originally, when Henifin first received a letter explaining about customer choice, he did what most customers do with inserts that are enclosed with their bill – he ignored it and thought “Why bother changing providers?” But, over time, he realized the benefits.

Now, he still gets his electric bill from Delmarva Power – it’s just in two parts. The first part is from WGES as his electrical supplier, and the second part is from Delmarva Power as his electrical distributor.

Henifin said is hopeful for the day that all people will see the benefits to customer choice and using clean, renewable energy to source their electricity.

“I feel like I have reduced my carbon footprint,” he said of making the switch to wind. If more people did it, he said, “Maybe we could do away with that smokestack in Millsboro.”

Warren said that, as more and more people demand power from sources other than fossil fuels, the actual quantitative difference regarding CO2 will become more apparent. He explained the customer’s ability to choose their source of power as similar to going to the ATM to get out money after getting paid by an employer.

“You go to the ATM and you get your money out,” he said. “Even though they might not be the exact dollar bills your employer deposited, it’s still your money.”

Warren also said that, while wind- and solar-powered electricity are seen as supplemental, as with anything, the more demand there is, supply will follow. He predicted that prices will eventually be competitive nationwide, as they are in and around states with fairly predictable wind currents.

For more information on customer choice, and other electrical suppliers for this area, visit www. http://www.delmarvapower.com/business/choice/de.