How to start using 100% renewable energy at home without installing solar panels

Published: Sunday, Sep 25, 2022

You probably wish you could do more to support the fight against climate change, but it’s not clear where to start. Luckily, there’s actually a really easy step you can take that will dramatically decrease your carbon footprint, and it only takes 5 minutes!

I’m talking about switching where you get your home energy from. And I don’t mean switching away from your provider, since in most places that’s impossible. But ever since energy deregulation, most energy providers make it easy to tell them that you want to pay a little more to get your energy from greener sources.

One caveat - the actual electrons coming into your house are probably not going to be the same electrons generated by the actual solar, wind or hydro sources you will be supporting. But that’s besides the point. By switching your energy preference to green sources, your money will go to support more green sources and won’t be going to support dirty coal or natural gas sources. The way we ensure our money is actually going to renewable energy generation is via something called a renewable energy certificate, or REC (pronounced: rěk, like wreck). The EPA has more info on RECs but long story short, this is the most common way to pay for green energy.

Some sources say that 70% of Americans live in deregulated areas and could put their money where their mouth is when it comes to climate change and green energy, potentially creating massive new demand for renewable energy infrastructure.

If you can put solar panels on your roof, I will definitely not stop you. People I know and people on the internet say it’s really fun and liberating to create energy yourself. But if you can’t put solar panels on your roof or don’t want to wait ten years for a return on your investment, you can enroll in an energy company that uses 100% renewable energy and make a difference immediately.

If you are Dominion Energy, below are the step-by-step instructions for switching your home to renewable energy. If you don’t have Dominion Energy, chances are you can do something very similar or just call them and say you want to switch your supply to renewable energy sources.

  1. Log in to your Dominion account
  2. Scroll down and click on “Renewable Energy Programs” in the left navigation (see below)
  3. Select which Renewable Energy Program you prefer and click “Enroll”
  4. Check the box to confirm and you’re done!

Seriously, that’s it, just 4 steps!

Dominion Website

You can choose from one of four renewable energy plans:

  • Community Solar: allows you to match all or a portion of your home’s electricity usage with solar energy produced right here in Virginia. It costs 2.01 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
  • Green Power: matches your full electrical usage with RECs from wind and solar facilities on the East Coast and costs 1.2 cents per kWh.
  • 100% Renewable Energy: sources energy from local, Virginia based renewable energy sources and costs an additional 0.398 cents per kWh. Note: this plan does source some energy from burning biomass.
  • REC Select: similar to the Green Power program, this allows you to purchase RECs to match your monthly electricity use but supports a wider variety of sources, including burning biomass and landfill gas. This is the cheapest at 0.269 cents per kWh.

For all of the above programs, the additional cost for an average residential customer will be less than an additional $10/month. For the price of two coffees a month, you can make a big difference in your carbon footprint.

I decided to go with the Green Power program for my house, since I don’t love the idea of burning biomass and landfill gas but I don’t require that my RECs only go to Virginia-based renewable energy providers. If you’re not sure which one you prefer, you can take the Renewable Energy Quiz and check out the Cost Calculator.

For more information on which Renewable Energy Program to select, check out Dominion’s website on Renewable Energy.

Renewable Energy Options