Get green power from your electric provider
Choosing clean, green energy for your home or office encourages the growth of eco-friendly power production businesses and helps support further development of renewable energy technologies. The potential expansion of the green energy market is enormous as is the potential for providing thousands of green jobs. An added benefit: increased energy independence, which could lead to greater economic and social security.
How to get green power from your electric provider
- Choose a green pricing option: If you're in a state with a regulated power structure, you’re given essentially only one choice for electricity: your local utility provider. The good news is that many state utilities offer green pricing options. This means that although you can’t be guaranteed to have only green power pumped directly to your outlets, you can pay a premium to your electricity provider to have your equivalent power usage pumped into the grid as renewable energy. So plug into the sun, water, wind, or geothermal by opting into your utility’s green power options!
- Choose a green marketing option: Green marketing options are available to those in states with a competitive electricity market. In such a system, power providers, including private power companies and your local utility, can jockey for your business. As a result, you have the choice to purchase electricity from your regular provider (that may or may not generate power sustainably) or from a company offering some percentage of green power. Some green energy companies even offer 100 percent renewable options! Start buying into your green power retail options and begin powering up sustainably!
- Opt for RECs: If neither of these options is available to you, look into Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs, TRCs, or greentags) available across the country. This option allows you to financially support the generation of clean energy in your area, usually through a company other than your usual power provider.
Getting green power from your electric provider helps you go green because…
- It supports increased development of renewable energy sources.
- It creates a more secure social future since it reduces our dependence on foreign sources of oil.
- It provides an abundance of healthy green jobs.
The demand for electricity in the US is predicted to increase 50 percent by 2025, increasing the need for new energy generating capacity. According to Environmental Defense, electricity use in the US is responsible for 70 percent of sulfur emissions, 33 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, 23 percent of mercury emissions, and 23 percent of fine airborne particle emissions. Coal power plants account for most of these emissions, which create several environmental problems, including lake and stream acidity, disruption of nutrient balance in water basins, depletion of soil nutrients, decreased plant and animal biodiversity, and damage to natural habitats.
In addition, fossil fuel burning power plants in the US release about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. In fact, about 80 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions come from power plants worldwide.
The US leans heavily on foreign sources of oil to supply its growing energy demands. Choosing to support green sources of energy increases energy independence and ensures a more secure social and economic furture. In addition, as money is invested in green power projects, more jobs are created. Supporting green power helps to expand the job market and stimulates the economy.
Renewable energy sources
There are several types of renewable energy sources to consider. Most electric providers use a mix of two or more of these options.
Direct solar energy falls into two general categories: concentrating and thermal systems. Currently, solar energy provides less than 1 percent of the energy needed by electricity users in the US.
In one way or another, most other renewable power sources are related to solar energy. Wind, for instance, results from solar energy absorbed and reflected by water and land, which in turn creates pockets of air with varying temperatures that react to create wind. The estimated energy potential from wind worldwide is 5,800 quadrillion Btus, which is 15 times more than the current energy demand of the world.
Hydropower comprises 73 percent of all energy generated renewably in the US. The constant cycling of water through the earth results in powerful hydro-forces, which are harnessed using mechanical processes.
Biomass energy is harnessed by burning biomass such as manure, crops, wood, and garbageto produce steam, which turns a turbine. Biomass currently provides about three percent of the energy used by Americans.
Oceans cover over 70 percent of the earth’s surface and can produce energy mechanically and thermally.
Geothermal energy, which originates in the earth's core where temperatures can reach 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit (F), can be used to provide direct heat, can regulate building temperatures (heating and cooling), and can be used to create electricity. It has the potential to provide 50,000 times more energy than the combined resources of all the world’s oil and gas resources.
Hydrogen energy is harnessed by electrochemically combining hydrogen with oxygen, which produces electricity and heat. The only byproduct is clean water vapor.
Non-renewable energy sources
Non-renewable energy sources fall into two main categories: fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Fossil fuels (including coal) creates several environmentally-harmful gasses, disrupts land and ocean habitats, and results in oil spills which can kill wildlife and water pollution. Burning coal provides over 50 percent of the electricity used by Americans, but is the single largest source of mercury emissions. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, has the potential for disastrous accidents (such as Chernobyl), and can cause serious radiation poisoning for workers and those living in close proximity to the plants.
At this time, most electricity providers charge a premium for their green energy options. This is likely because of two problems. First, conventional sources of energy (usually fossil fuel-based) are highly subsidized by most governments, making them seem much cheaper than cleaner sources of energy. Second, because green energy is a much newer and smaller industry, the economies of scale have not yet begun to benefit them.
- Btu (British thermal unit): A unit of energy used universally in the heating and cooling industries. It is defined as the unit of heat required to raise 1 pound of water by 1° F.
- International Energy Agency - Key World Energy Statistics 2005
- IEA Bioenergy: An International Collaboration in Bioenergy
- Low Impact Hydropower Institute
- US National Renewable Energy Laboratory
- Sierra Club’s Clean Air Campaign
- US Department of Energy’s Biomass Program
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Green Power and Renewable Energy
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Guide to Purchasing Green Power
- National Center for Policy Analysis
- Environmental Defense - Why Is It Better to Buy Green Electricity
- Green-e - Electricity generation is responsible
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Why Buy Green Power?
- US Department of Energy - Buying Green Power
- US National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Photovoltaics
- US Energy Information Administration - Solar Energy: Energy from the Sun
- US National Atlas - Renewable Energy Sources in the US
- American Wind Energy Association - What is wind energy?
- American Wind Energy Association - Wind Energy Potential
- US Energy Information Administration - Hydropower: Energy from Moving Water
- US Department of Energy - How Hydropower Works
- Union of Concerned Scientists - Clean Energy: How Hydroelectric Energy Works
- US Department of Energy - Biomass FAQs
- NCGreenPower - Renewable Energy Landfill Methane
- US National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Biopower
- US Energy Information Administration - Biomass: Renewable Energy from Plants and Animals
- Renewable Energy Access - Ocean Energy
- Geothermal Education Office - Geothermal Energy Facts: What is Geothermal Energy?
- Renewable Energy Access - Geothermal Energy
- Union of Concerned Scientists - How Geothermal Energy Works: The geothermal resource
- US National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Hydrogen Basics
- US Energy Information Administration - Petroleum (Oil): A Fossil Fuel
- Sierra Club - Dirty Coal Power
- Green-e - Nuclear energy
- Green Power - What Is Green Power?