From last week, good news about Portland General Electric:

PGE [has moved to] the head of the pack nationally in terms of demand for green energy. Under its green-power program, Oregon’s largest utility sells more kilowatts of renewable power to its residential customers than any other utility in the country, regardless of size. [Emphasis added]

Wow. PGE is nowhere near the nation’s largest utility. Still, it leads the nation “green energy” signups — people who opt to pay a bit extra on their home utility bills to support wind, solar, small hydro, or similar climate-friendly energy sources. Seems like PGE, and its customers, deserve a pat on on the back.

But wait, there’s more! (Or perhaps less …)

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Just 6.2 percent of PGE’s customers, or 49,000, participate …

That’s right, one-sixteenth of the customer base is enough to push PGE into first place nationally for green power signups.

This story is telling in two ways. First, there’s a small but growing market for green power and more sustainable energy choices. That’s genuinely good news. But second, it’s still a very small market — and if history is any guide, it’s going to take a huge amount of work to make inroads in the rest of the population.

That’s a common theme in “green consumerism.” It’s helpful on many levels. But to avoid devastating long-term damage to the climate and atmosphere, we’re going to need more fundamental changes in our energy system. Encouraging green consumer choices is a great start, but it’s only a start.

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