The whole exchange starts when you decide to leave your local utility company in search of more affordable and sustainable energy opportunities. Your change in patronage alerts the Utility company; your new retail energy provider knows that responsibility for your energy consumption has shifted. Now the utility power plant is free to generate one less building worth of electricity a day. And your retail provider is ready to generate enough extra to cover your needs.
Once your retail energy provider is aware of your patronage, they will prepare to provide the energy needed to cover your building’s predicted consumption in addition to the power needs of all their other customers. Of course, there are a number of ways increasing output can be achieved; essentially, this is when the retail energy market takes the burden of your power use off the utility power plants. One interesting benefit of the retail energy shift is that it can allow smaller and less efficient utility-company power plants decommission.
Electricity is Fed to the Shared City Grid
However, your retail energy provider does not have or need their own separate grid to keep the Utility electricity separate from their privately generated electricity. As they generate the juice, your retail energy provider feeds the electricity they create onto the shared city power grid. Larger equipment than a private solar-panel owner might use accomplishes this, and far more carefully; but it is essentially the same principle as solar net-metering. Non-utility-company energy goes in and joins the constantly flowing mass of power that the grid is always humming with.
Finally, you may be wondering how this energy you bought gets to your outlets. Your experience won’t change in the least. On the grid, all electricity is equal in fact; whether it comes from the utility power plant, your retail energy provider, or your neighbor’s solar panels. Electrons travel down the wires at a rapid pace. Those wires connect to homes and businesses which spread the current out through the fuse box to the outlets and integrated appliances in each building. Connecting to the current, likewise, pushes more electrons out into your devices; but there’s no guarantee that you will get any specific set of electrons.
The same rate and quality of power will come through your building as it always has. There’s no way to tell which electrons were generated from a specific source. However, the electricity you use is a measurable amount; you are paying for that amount to be generated by an independent producer and supplied by your new retail supplier.
Drawing uninterrupted power from your outlet, it may seem like where you buy energy from is all the same except for the details on paper. This is an easy misconception to make. Where you put your energy business does matter. Your choice, along with the choices of all your colleagues and neighbors, can influence the energy industry as a whole. If you want to see more of the nation’s energy generated sustainably, take your utility budget from the power plants and give it to solar, wind, and natural gas providers. Or invest in your own solar panels and hook up to the grid with net-metering. If you want to see more customer-friendly policies, make your ‘vote’ known by patronizing friendly companies with responsive customer service.
In this way, we can all change the energy industry one customer choice at a time. The results are already apparent as we see a significant rise in sustainable energy and new major players take the field.
No matter what kind of energy needs, plans, or values your school may have, we can help. You can reduce your costs, get more efficient, and integrate sustainable energy into both your infrastructure and curriculum. Contact us to learn more about the behind-the-scenes workings of the energy industry and how you can get better deals, service, and support sustainability in the long-term.