All of January’s cold weather led to record-breaking electricity demand and had an unexpected casualty: Clean Currents, one of the region’s third-party renewable energy providers, announced last Friday that it would immediately cease operations.
“The recent extreme weather, which sent the wholesale electricity market into unchartered territories, has fatally compromised our ability to continue to serve customers,” Clean Currents said a statement on the company's website.
PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator covering 13 states including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, reported that January had eight of the ten highest winter days of electricity demand in the company’s 87-year history. On January 7 PJM reported it delivered more energy to customers than on any other winter day before.
Clean Currents had defaulted on payments to PJM Interconnection, the Baltimore Sun reported.
"Obviously this is not the way we would have hoped things would have happened, but this polar vortex and extended cold weather sent the electricity market into an extreme situation. Prices were through the roof and beyond anything we could afford to cover," Co-founder Gary Skulnik told the Sun.
In Philadelphia Clean Currents had started to support collaborative sustainability projects including Lots of Power, a competition for students and designers to rethink vacant properties as assets. Clean Currents was also a partner in the Philadelphia Solar Schools Initiative, a program Eyes on the Street profiled last year that aims to install solar arrays on city schools and use a renewable energy mix geared at saving on energy costs.
Clean Currents had seen strong growth recently: In 2012 the company reported $13.2 million in revenue, compared with $2.1 million in 2009. Since 2005, Clean Currents had converted 15,000 residential and 3,000 commercial customers to renewable energy.
Clean Currents, which focused on wind power, turned its customers over to local utility services as of Friday. Consumers can browse third party electrical suppliers, including those focused on renewable sources, on PA Power Switch.
Ashley Hahn is an independent writer with a background in historic preservation and city planning. She started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from 2015-2017. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She is a Philadelphian by choice.