Correction to This Article
The column incorrectly calculated that an average two-person household that reduced its energy use by 10 percent would receive 18 cents from the sale of those carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange and $1.46 on the European exchange. It would receive $1.80 and $17.54, respectively.

Eureka! Get Paid For Paring Down Home Energy Costs

Friday, April 24, 2009

My ears perked up when I heard about a new local company that promises to pay you money for saving money.

The premise of Earth Aid is that reductions in household energy use are valuable not only to us in the form of lower utility bills, but also potentially to companies that want to buy credits to offset their own carbon footprints. Earth Aid bundles your energy savings over the course of a year and then sells them off -- returning the profit to the consumer minus a brokerage fee.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a household of two people emits an average of 27,290 pounds of carbon dioxide from gas and electricity usage over the course of a year. Carbon credits are typically measured in metric tons, so that would be equivalent to about 12 metric tons.

On the Chicago Climate Exchange recently, one metric ton of carbon was selling for about $1.50. That means that your annual carbon output from gas and electricity was worth about $18. On its site, Earth Aid lists the price of carbon on the European Climate Exchange, which is $14.62 per metric ton delivered next year. That would make your total output worth $175.44, though U.S. household energy reductions don't qualify for sale on the European exchange.

Ben Bixby, Earth Aid managing partner, said he anticipates bypassing the exchanges and selling credits directly to companies that would be willing to pay a premium to say they are working with U.S. households to offset their carbon footprint.

Remember, you only get paid for the reduction in your energy use. So, if you used 10 percent less energy, you would only get 18 cents on the Chicago exchange or $1.46 in Europe. Still, small change matters and signing up with Earth Aid is free.

-- Ylan Q. Mui

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