As electric utility deregulation gets rolling in California and Pennsylvania, enviros are anxiously watching to see whether consumers, who now have a choice about their power providers, will opt to pay a little more for renewable energy. In California, about 1 percent, or some 116,000 homes, have gone to green power since the market opened in April 1998. Some power companies have placed ads trying to lure customers to renewable energy; one plays Kenny Loggins tunes while another features a hip-looking woman in sunglasses who says that using the sun, wind, and rivers to power computers is “cool.” Citizens in Maryland and Texas will soon have renewable options. A number of environmental groups and states with air pollution problems fear that deregulation will ultimately be bad news for the environment because demand for cheap, dirty, coal-fired power will rise.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.