One of the things I’ve noticed about the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community is that we all tend to be naturally environmentally friendly – it seems to be a byproduct of the lifestyle choices that we make. Take me as an example. I bike to work, keep my heat turned down fairly low during the winter, and when I do drive, I drive a Prius.
I don’t necessarily do these things for the environmental benefits – it’s mainly because these things save me money and help me avoid getting soft and weak. But the fact that they tend to have a positive environmental impact isn’t bad either.
A few months back, I saw an ad on Facebook for Arcadia Power, which promised me that if I signed up for their service, I could get 50% of my home’s electricity sourced from wind power at no additional cost and without having to switch my electricity company. This piqued my interest. I’m all for doing something that’s free and that gives me an advantage in some way.
I’ve been an Arcadia Power customer now for a little over a month and after using it, I definitely think its something that is worth using, and hence why I’m writing up this little Arcadia Power review. If you have any interest at all in supporting renewable energy sources, signing up for Arcadia Power is an easy way to do just that.
The great thing is that Arcadia Power is completely free (your electricity bill will remain exactly the same) and takes almost no work to set up. Even better, if you sign up through my link, you’ll get a $20 Amazon gift card. Plus, you get the benefit of sourcing at least half of your power from renewable energy sources.
How Electricity Works In The US
To understand what Arcadia Power is, you have to first understand a little bit about how electricity works in the United States. We get our electricity from a lot of different sources here – coal, nuclear, solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc. Once electricity gets generated, it gets sent to the national power grid, which then sends the electricity to our homes via power lines.
What this means though is that once electricity is made, there’s no real way to differentiate different types of electricity – all electricity looks the same once it enters the power grid, sort of like how a cup of water looks the same as any other water once you dump it into a river. Unless you’re actually generating your own electricity (such as via solar panels on your house), there’s no way to actually know or say where your electricity came from.
That’s where Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) come into play. Every time one megawatt-hour of renewable electricity is generated, a REC is also created. RECs basically serves as a way to “prove” that the power in your home is coming from a renewable energy source. You basically buy two things when you buy electricity from a renewable energy source – the electricity that was generated from it and the REC that gets created with it.
For more info about RECs, check out this short primer here from the EPA. Below is also a great video that I think really breaks down the whole REC system:
RECs aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are some legitimate criticisms about RECs as a way to promote renewable energy, mainly around the argument that they cost too little to actually encourage companies to build renewable energy projects. REC supporters, on the other hand, point out that there aren’t really any other systems that can work based on how we currently get our electricity from the power grid. That debate is way beyond the subject of this post, but if you’re looking for further reading about RECs, feel free to check out the below links:
The main thing to consider, I think, is that by getting RECs, you can at least support renewable energy in some way. I’d say, at a minimum, that’s better than doing nothing.
How Does Arcadia Power Work?
With that background out of the way, let’s talk about how Arcadia Power works. Here’s an explainer video direct from Arcadia Power:
In short, when you become an Arcadia Power customer, Arcadia Power will buy RECs on your behalf, which means that at least 50% of your electricity will be attributable to renewable energy sources.
If you’re worried that this sounds like work, just know that it’s not. When you sign up with Arcadia Power, you do not change your current electricity provider. Whatever electricity company you have now is the electricity company you will continue to have. You don’t have to do anything beyond setting up your Arcadia Power account.
Instead, Arcadia Power works on top of your current electricity company. They offer two plans:
- A free plan which costs you exactly zero dollars to use and will make it so that 50% of your energy is attributable to renewable energy sources; or
- A premium plan which will cost you a few extra dollars per month (probably $5 to $10 extra per month is my guess for a typical home) and makes it so that 100% of your energy is attributable to renewable energy sources.
There are no contracts to worry about, so you’re not on the hook for anything if you sign up for Arcadia Power. I signed up for the free plan, which means that, as of right now, 50% of my home’s electricity is coming from wind energy sources at no additional cost to me. I still pay exactly the same electricity bill that I normally pay.
Once you pick your Arcadia Power plan (either the free plan or the premium plan), you’ll be directed to link your current electric utility account with Arcadia Power and you’ll also get to choose how you want to pay your bill – either by credit card or with a bank withdrawal. I recommend using your bank account to pay your bill since that method is free (credit cards have a 3% processing fee, which is pretty normal in the utility world).
At this point, every time you receive your bill from your electricity company, Arcadia Power will get your bill from them, withdraw the bill amount from your bank account, and then pay your electricity company on your behalf. You’re essentially setting up a new autopay with Arcadia Power. Think of it as looking like this:
Bank Account –> Arcadia Power –> Your Electric Company
Arcadia Power has a good video on their site that explains how the billing process works:
I checked my most recent bill just to make sure there wasn’t an upcharge and my bill was exactly the same as the bill I received from my electricity company. All that happened is that my autopay is now going to Arcadia Power, instead of my regular electric company. And as a benefit, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m supporting renewable energy sources.
The Arcadia Power Dashboard
Beyond just the environmental benefits, another benefit of signing up for Arcadia Power is access to a much better online dashboard. I’ve probably looked at my utility company’s online dashboard a handful of times in my life, but the Arcadia Power dashboard has so much info in it that I keep coming back to look at it.
Remember though that you can still go and look at your normal dashboard with your electricity company, so it’s not like you lose access to what you already have. By signing up for Arcadia Power, you’re basically just adding a new dashboard that has a lot more useful info.
The following video from Arcadia Power shows you exactly what you can do with your new Arcadia Power dashboard:
One feature I like on my online dashboard is this environmental impact chart:
There’s also a very cool section where I can see what percentage of my power came from different energy sources:
As you can see, for this past month, a little over half of my energy can be attributed to renewable energy sources. I’m not quite sure how Arcadia Power knows where the other sources of my energy came from – I’m guessing they use averages or something – but I can at least be confident that half of my energy came from renewable sources.
The reason I know that is because, in addition to my power bill, I also received the below REC, which certifies that 159 kWh of my electricity in the past month came from renewable energy sources. That’s half of my electricity consumption for the month.
And remember, all of this cost me exactly zero dollars. I’ve now got 50% of my energy coming from renewable sources and all I had to do was sign up for an Arcadia Power account. Meanwhile, I just continue to pay my electricity bill as I normally would.
If you are at all interested in supporting clean energy, signing up for Arcadia Power is a no-brainer to me. The free plan costs absolutely nothing, so it won’t even cost you anything to improve your carbon footprint. Even if you don’t care about renewable energy at all, I’d still recommend using Arcadia Power simply because of the enhanced online dashboard that you get access to.
One thing to consider that isn’t really a problem is that Arcadia Power pays your electricity bill as soon as it receives it, which means that some people will be paying their electricity bill a little earlier than they’re used to. Not a big problem for most of us, but something to consider if you’re the type that likes to pay your bill on a specific day of the month.
Arcadia Power also might not be available everywhere, so you’ll have to see if your zip code is supported. They do say that they’re available in all 50 states, but it’s possible there are certain zip codes that aren’t able to access Arcadia Power, for whatever reason.
The last point to consider is whether Arcadia Power has the staying power to make it or whether they’ll eventually have to get rid of their free plan. RECs aren’t free, so it has to cost Arcadia Power something to buy them. At this point, I’m not quite sure how they’re able to offer the free plan. My thought is that, even if they do end up getting rid of their free plan one day, you can make the decision then on whether supporting renewable energy is worth the extra cost to you.
If you’re interested in signing up for Arcadia Power, be sure to use this referral link. If you use it, you’ll get a $20 Amazon gift card once you sign up. That’s a good thing too!
Let me know how Arcadia Power works for you or if you’re considering any other ways to support renewable energy sources!