Dirty vs. Clean Electricity
It’s a sad fact that most of the electricity in the U.S. is made from dirty, polluting, non-renewable sources such as coal. In fact, making electricity is the #1 industrial cause of air pollution in the U.S. and creates more CO2 than any other sector.
Clean energy, on the other hand, is 100% pollution-free and produced from renewable sources that are naturally replenished and virtually inexhaustible. Creating energy from natural, renewable sources like the sun, wind and water seems like the better way to go, right?
How Clean Energy Works
The U.S. electric grid is like a bathtub. Each time you use electricity you drain a little water from the tub.
Water comes into the tub from CLEAN or DIRTY sources.
As demand for renewable energy increases, more CLEAN water goes into the tub and less DIRTY water is needed to keep the tub full.
Renewable energy doesn’t go directly to your home; it is added to the grid on your behalf.
Renewable Energy Certificates
Buying renewable energy does not mean that electricity is coming directly from wind farms or other clean energy sources to your home — it is impossible to direct any specific electron that travels through the electric grid. However, it does mean that the electricity being poured into the grid on your behalf comes from pollution-free and renewable sources, rather than dirtier generation sources like coal and oil. Here’s how: we purchase generic electricity to serve our customers’ minute-by-minute power needs AND we ensure that enough cleaner energy is produced through the purchase of renewable energy certificates from national wind or solar sources. Renewable energy certificates (referred to as RECs, and also known as renewable energy credits) represent the environmental and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation and are part of most renewable electricity products. RECs are measured in 1 mega-watt-hour (MWh) increments of power generated from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and biomass. They can be traded separately from the actual electricity produced by renewable facilities. Purchasing RECs ensures that the renewable electricity products you buy are generated using renewable resources, reducing the amount of electricity that has to be generated from polluting fossil fuels. RECs can also offset CO2 emissions associated with your electricity usage. So, that’s how electricity products that include RECs help make a difference: by supporting the development and operation of more renewable energy resources!
The Benefits of Clean Electricity
Generating electricity using clean, renewable resources has both environmental and economic benefits.
- Doesn’t emit carbon dioxide (CO2), mercury, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) or particulate matter into the air, water or soil; commonly cited effects of these harmful pollutants include climate change, mercury poisoning, smog, acid rain and respiratory disease.
- Doesn’t damage the land like fossil-fuel extraction
- Is made from unlimited renewable sources
- Many forms of renewable energy use little to no water
- Helps preserve and protect the environment for future generations
- Creates employment opportunities in the green job sector in the U.S.; in 2011, job creation in clean energy outpaced fossil fuels by a margin of 3-to-11
- Supports a homegrown energy source, helping secure America’s energy future
- Brings development to rural areas, where renewable facilities are often sited to take advantage of ample space and resource potential
1 Pew Charitable Trust