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Alternative Realities

Most electric co-op members in Kentucky can buy electricity generated with renewable fuels.

Almost no one does.

You�d think with all the hype about alternative energy these days, people would be standing in line to sign up.

But digging deeper into this mystery uncovers some of the keys to understanding the big energy issues of the day, and how they affect your electric bill.

The first fact to know is that renewable electricity costs more.

Local electric co-ops use different renewable sources to generate green electricity, depending on their location. In the east part of the state, a program called EnviroWatts makes electricity by burning trash from landfills. Some of the co-ops in western Kentucky offer electricity produced by waste heat from a paper plant. Others make electricity from wind or solar power.

If you call your co-op to get some of this alternative electricity, you�ll find it�s more expensive.

Like any new and developing technology, renewable fuels still have a high price tag compared with coal. That�s why coal is used to generate half the electricity in the United States, and nearly all the electricity in Kentucky.

Will renewable electricity prices come down if more people use it?

Not necessarily.

While computers and large-screen TVs get cheaper with more mass production, there are reasons why renewable energy prices may never drop as low as coal power.

For example, some days it seems like Kentucky would be a good spot for producing wind and solar energy. In fact, engineering studies show Kentucky is one of the worst states for providing the wind and solar energy people want all day, all night, and all year. Building the transmission lines needed to ship wind and solar energy in from other parts of the country is both expensive and unpopular.

The lack of popularity of green electricity shows that Kentucky co-op members want the most reliable and affordable electricity available. The best deal for that is coal.

Today�s great national debate over global warming centers on controlling greenhouse gas emissions by raising the cost of coal-generated electricity.

Your local electric co-op has been telling your state and federal elected officials that you�re skeptical of plans to raise the costs of coal-generated electricity. But those officials pay even more attention to voters like you. Write them a letter or go to www.kaec.org and click on �Contact Your Legislators� to find out how to send them a letter or e-mail.

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