What Do You Get When You Sign up for a 100% Green Electricity Plan?

For the first time, residents and businesses up and down the state can buy electricity plans touted as “100 percent green” in their quest to fight climate change or simply be more environmentally friendly.

They can enroll in these programs through California’s three major investor-owned utilities — San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric — or through the growing number of cities and counties that offer alternative power programs called community choice aggregation, or CCA.

Does this mean all the electricity flowing into those customers’ homes and offices is created with renewable energy? No.

When residents pay a roughly $5 to $10 premium on top of the average monthly bill to get a 100 percent green plan, the provider buys a corresponding amount of renewable energy on their behalf. Almost all of that green power comes from existing inventory, which is mixed with electricity generated from fossil fuels, and the situation isn’t expected to undergo a transformation until far more people enroll in 100 percent plans. Whether that explosion in demand takes years or decades to realize remains to be seen.

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