What is Clean Energy?

Let’s start with the difference between clean and dirty energy,

It’s a sad fact that most of the electricity in the United States is made from dirty, polluting, non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels. In fact, generating electricity is the #1 industrial cause of air pollution in the U.S., creating more CO2 emissions than any other sector and increasing the effects of climate change.

Clean energy, on the other hand, is 100% pollution-free. It’s produced using naturally replenished and virtually inexhaustible sources like the sun and wind. Best of all, it can have a positive impact on the effects of climate change. If using natural, renewable energy sources sounds like a better way to get your electricity, then you probably have the same question we had: How can we support using clean energy sources and power our homes and businesses with 100% renewable electricity?

That’s why we founded Green Mountain Energy: to use the power of consumer choice to change the way electricity is made. We strive every day to support clean energy and to ensure that homes and businesses have the power to reduce their carbon footprint and help mitigate the effects of climate change by using clean electricity.

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How clean energy works:

Life needs a lot of energy, but not all energy is created equally.

All electricity that flows into your home comes from the U.S. electric grid, which distributes electricity from different sources. Some of these sources burn fossil fuels and cause pollution, while others generate clean, renewable energy from natural resources like the sun and wind. Once electricity is on the grid, it’s distributed to homes and businesses based on what they need.

So how can you make sure that you’re choosing clean, sustainable electricity? You make sure that renewable energy is added to the grid on your behalf. That’s where renewable energy certificates come into play.

Renewable energy certificates

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to direct any specific electron that travels through the electric grid, so buying renewable energy does not mean that the electricity flowing to your home comes directly from wind farms or other clean energy sources. 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 electricity to serve our customers’ minute-by-minute power needs and we ensure that an equal amount of clean energy gets produced through the purchase of renewable energy certificates from national wind or solar sources.

Renewable energy certificates (aka renewable energy credits, or RECs) 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 megawatt-hour (MWh) increments of power generated from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and biomass, and can be traded separately from the actual electricity produced by renewable facilities. By purchasing RECs, we ensure that the electricity you buy is generated using renewable resources, reducing the amount of electricity that must be generated from polluting fossil fuel sources. RECs can also offset CO2 emissions associated with your electricity usage. As of 2020, Green Mountain Energy customers alone have offset more than 81.9 billion pounds of CO2. That’s like planting enough trees to cover 25,400 football fields!

That’s how electricity plans that include RECs help make a difference for the planet: by supporting the development and operation of more renewable energy resources. The more clean energy that’s added to the grid, the less there is needed from fossil fuels — it’s as simple as that.

Learn the benefits of clean electricity.

We know that generating electricity using clean, renewable resources has environmental benefits, but did you know it has economic benefits, too?

Environmental benefits:

  • Made from unlimited renewable sources
  • Helps preserve and protect the environment for future generations
  • Uses little to no water in many forms
  • Doesn’t damage the land
  • Doesn’t emit carbon dioxide (CO2), mercury, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) or particulate matter into the air, water or soil; the commonly cited effects of these harmful pollutants include climate change, mercury poisoning, smog, acid rain and respiratory disease; together, our customers have avoided more than 81.9 billion pounds of CO2 emissions, which is like taking 8.6 million cars off the road for a year1

Economic benefits:

  • Creates employment opportunities right here in the United States; as of 2020, wind and solar energy are the two fastest-growing job markets in the U.S.2
  • Supports a homegrown energy source, helping secure America’s energy future
  • Brings development to rural areas, where renewable facilities can take advantage of ample space and resource potential

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1Impact statistics based on a Texas home using 2,000 kWh per month and an annual car mileage of 15,000.

2U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics