By Barbara Kessler

In many places in the United States, unless you’re locked into a city utility or cooperative, you have some ability to choose your energy supplier.

This freedom, conversely, means that energy companies are on the hunt for you, the consumer, often with a flurry of special offers, rebates and claims designed to catch your attention, including promises to use greener energy sources. One recent promotion offered by TXU Energy in Texas promised that signers could get 10 percent of their energy from “renewable sources” (i.e., wind). Using a catchphrase of “Easy Switch. Easy Money” it also promised a $50 rebate.

The offer was bonafide, but it was hardly environmentally or cost compewind-turbines.jpgtitive. Several other Texas electricity providers offer 100 percent wind programs, including Commerce Energy, First Choice Power, GEXA Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Reliant Energy and – yup, even TXU itself, though it wasn’t promoting that plan that day (perhaps because it’s heavily invested in coal?).

Of course, some of these “full wind” plans cost more than the 10 percent wind plan, but several do not. So Texas consumers could be greener, and still save some green. At last check, GEXA’s 100 percent wind plan was 2 cents per kWh cheaper than the TXU 10 percent wind plan, which illustrates the problem of relying on mailbox offers.

The key, if you’re thinking of switching to wind power, is to vet all the company offers that apply to your area. In Texas, many people use the PowertoChoose website set up by the state utility commission to help customers navigate the de-regulated energy market.

But no matter what state you live in, you can get basic information on the power company offerings available in your region by using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Locator. This site not only lists recent information on power companies and their rates, but also helps you jump to the company websites for details. Info on commercial rates for businesses and retailers also is listed.

Moral to the story: If you want to sign up for a greener energy plan look beyond the brochures.