Everyone in the world uses energy in their daily life, whether it’s to power homes, drive cars, or even eat food. Everything you eat or purchase, from cheeseburgers to washing machines, undergoes a process that uses energy somewhere along the line. The world’s energy supply is finite, and the renewable energy supply is even more so. If we are to address our world’s renewable energy needs holistically, powering everyone and everything sustainably will require a variety of tactics.
This philosophy is true for power producers and consumers. While it may seem like a no-brainer for producers to invest most of their available capital into clean alternatives like solar and wind power, future-proofing energy markets will take a bit more of a complex approach. Solar farms aren’t built in a day, and community energy needs are constant. A local utility simply cannot fully divest from traditional sources in an instant. Such a tactic would risk not having enough power for thousands of homes, hospitals, and government buildings. Companies that want to retain these local contracts while making progress on sustainability efforts are getting creative given this reality.
Dominion Energy, a utility that provides energy for various areas, including parts of Utah and Idaho, is a power company thinking outside the box. It is doing so with the help of carbon offsets. Offsets have emerged as a way to keep companies accountable in recent years. One is tied to a finite amount of carbon that can be legally emitted into the atmosphere. Because the government limits the supply of offsets, businesses have to outbid one another if they want to continue lawfully emitting gasses.
Dominion took this idea and turned it on its head by directly selling carbon offsets to consumers as part of its CarbonRight program. Consumers can purchase “blocks” for $5. One block is equivalent to an average household’s monthly energy usage, meaning people can power their homes sustainably for about $60 per year.
While participating customers aren’t powering their homes with solar or wind power, they are doing the equivalent in an indirect way. Dominion has embarked on a variety of renewable projects that involve the removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
Many operations based in Utah and Missouri are underway to reduce landfill emissions, and a forest management project in Minnesota will capture carbon emissions.
Because these projects remove emissions from the air, they generate new carbon offsets, which Dominion then sells to its customers. So, while the physical energy powering your home likely comes from a traditional source, your monthly $5 does contribute to emissions removal, thus making it sustainable in the long run.
The program represents just part of a comprehensive effort from Dominion to reduce its own footprint and its customers. Dominion’s ThermWise program already works with households and businesses to reduce energy usage, and the GreenTherm program encourages customers to support renewable projects as CarbonRight does.
The initiative rolled out in March. Before the launch, Dominion representatives like spokeswoman Jorgan Hofeling were optimistic about the potential of a new era of corporate-consumer energy responsibility. “It’s just another way for us and our customers to take control of their energy usage,” she said.