It is likely something most Alabamians take completely for granted. You walk into a room and flip on the lights or turn on the TV. You plug in your computer or phone to charge them or crank up the air conditioner when it gets too hot out. Chances are you do these things without giving a second thought to where the electricity actually comes from.
But you should. The energy sources that are used to power our homes and businesses affect us in many ways, from creating air and water pollution that harms are health and communities to locking in long-term rates that keep us paying some of the highest electricity bills of any state in the country. These are all direct results of decisions made behind closed doors about the sources of energy used to electrify our lives.
Statewide, more than a third of the electricity we use comes from burning natural gas and about a quarter of it comes from burning coal. Another quarter is generated by nuclear power plants and about 7 percent is power from hydroelectric dams.
The numbers are slightly different if you’re a customer of Alabama Power. More than half the electricity for the state’s biggest utility comes from coal, while natural gas and nuclear combine for to generate a little more than a third. The rest comes from hydroelectric, oil and other sources.
What the statewide average and Alabama Power both have in common is the negligible amount of electricity that comes from renewable energy resources like solar and wind. For all intents and purposes, the wind and the sun provide zero electricity.
That should shock many Alabamians because we live in a state that the solar industry says has the eighth best potential for solar development in the country. We know from our many conversations with people throughout the state and through public opinion research that most Alabamians would like to see those data flip-flopped. They want clean energy delivering electricity to homes, businesses and schools, and they would like to see our dependence on harmful and increasingly costly fossil fuels lowered. Alabamians, like the rest of the country, have a strong desire to move away from 19th century fuel sources to newer, cleaner energy sources that reflect 21st century technology and sensibilities.
Now we have new online tool that can help them voice those preferences to the right people. PicMyEnergyMix provides a way to create a picture of the energy mix you want and send it straight to the Alabama Public Service Commission, which oversees public utilities in the states.
Use the PicMyEnergyMix Alabama tool today.
Every December, the Alabama PSC meets to finalize the rates that Alabama Power is allowed to charge its customers for electricity. We know very little about the company’s long-term plan for what energy sources it will use to power the homes and businesses of its Alabama customers. These decisions are made largely in secret with next to zero opportunity for public input. We do, however, know that Alabama Power’s plans:
- Dramatically shortchange new solar and wind: While Alabama Power is making some progress, Alabama is still woefully behind its neighbors in developing wind and solar projects that are cost-competitive with coal and natural gas.
- Put far too much emphasis on adding new natural gas capacity: Alabama Power plans so far signal that it wants to meet much of its new electricity needs with carbon-polluting natural gas plants.
- Dismiss any investments in energy efficiency: Alabama ranks near the bottom of all the states in programs aimed at helping customers use energy more efficiently and in cutting waste. Energy efficiency is the single most cost-effective way for residents and business to save money on their electricity bills, but they have to programs that allow them to participate.
These are weak foundations for creating an energy plan for the future – one that maximizes low-cost alternatives to the status quo. Instead, the PSC is allowing Alabama Power to put profits over the people it serves by forcing them to buy into an energy mix that is less than ideal.
It’s time to show the PSC that you would like to pick a different energy mix.
Today, the Alabama Environmental Council is asking Alabamians statewide to use the PicMyEnergyMix visioning tool to voice their opinions about our energy future. It is a simple way to see where Alabama’s energy mix currently stands, and to create and share your own vision for the future.
The PSC needs to hear from you about what our energy future should look like – even if you’re not an Alabama Power customer you deserve a say in these critical choices that affect us all.
The tool will automatically send the PSC your vision for Alabama’s clean energy future, and give you an easy way to share it with your friends, family and acquaintances, too.