Is your energy source sustainable? How to find out

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Are you concerned about the environment? Are you trying to minimize your carbon footprint? How sustainable are the energy suppliers you use?

Most of us can easily answer the first two questions, but the question of which energy supplier provides the cleanest energy, not so much.

As environmentally conscious consumers, we need to know the source of our energy to ensure that we minimize our contribution to global warming.

Why is the source of your electricity important?

The residential sector is the third largest consumer of energy in the United States. Electricity powers just about everything we depend on – from kitchen utilities and computers to electric vehicles and, more recently, personal transportation devices like electric scooters.

In 2018, approximately 4,178 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were produced at large-scale generation facilities in the United States. Fossil fuels made up the majority of electricity generation, with 63.5%, followed by nuclear (19.3%) and renewables (17.1%).

Because we depend so much on electricity, we depend on producers and suppliers of energy to provide the energy we need to live comfortably. But, it’s easy to overlook the source of the electricity we use to power our homes and gadgets.

It is more important than ever to know what energy sources produce our electricity, especially with the emergence of electrically charged technologies that are poised to shape the future of our way of life. For example, a 2019 BloombergNEF report predicts that by 2040, more than half of all passenger vehicle sales will be electric.

If your electricity is not produced by a renewable, clean energy source, recharging these so-called “green” cars from an outlet in your home significantly reduces their environmental benefit. We have already seen this kind of unexpected environmental cost with “zero emissions” electric scooters; generating electricity to charge scooters generated around 9,308 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, equivalent to the energy consumption of an average home for 650 years.

How to know if your energy source is sustainable

Determining the sustainability of your energy source depends on the production activities of your energy supplier. It might sound overwhelming, but the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Power Profiler tool lets you quickly check the cleanliness of your electricity.

Simply enter your postal code and the Power Profiler will compare the fuel mix from the sources used to generate electricity for your zip code sub-region with the national fuel mix. The tool also compares the average emission rates of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

While this tool gives you an indication of the different sources that generate electricity in your area, you can also search online for sustainability reports from energy producers.

Energy producers and suppliers often publish sustainability reports showing the actions and results of initiatives they are taking to become more environmentally friendly. Access to reports is relatively easy; they are available on the websites of energy producers. For example, here is the latest report from NextEra Energy.

How to choose a sustainable energy supplier

An easy way to find and choose a sustainable energy supplier is to use the Green-e Renewable Energy search tool. To use it, click on the “Renewable energies” section in green; then, under “Product type”, select “Renewable residential electricity”; select your state; and click on “Search”. You will be presented with the supplier, product name, availability status and a breakdown of how electricity is produced (wind, solar, biomass, etc.).

If you can’t find green electricity options in your area using the Green-e tool, contact local power companies to see if they offer green tariffs. Green pricing allows you to pay a small premium in exchange for electricity produced from clean energy sources.

If you want more control over the carbon footprint of your electricity, you can generate your own electricity using solar power, either by installing solar panels on your property or by joining a community solar farm.

About the Author

Josh Frisby is the founder of Electric Scooter Insider, a site that reviews and recommends the best electric scooters. He also conducts in-depth studies of the micro-mobility industry to uncover interesting ideas that spark debate and increase exposure of electric scooters to the general public.


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