Are you environmentally conscious? Do you try to minimize your carbon footprint? How sustainable are the energy suppliers that you use?
Most of us can easily answer the first two questions, but the question of what energy supplier provides the cleanest energy, not so much.
As environmentally conscious consumers, we should know the source of our energy to ensure we minimize our contribution to global warming.
Why Is the Source of Your Electricity Significant?
The residential sector is the third-largest consumer of energy in the United States. Electricity powers so many things we depend on — from home appliances to computers to electric vehicles and, more recently, personal transportation devices such as electric scooters.
In 2021, approximately 4,116 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were generated at utility-scale generation facilities in the United States. Fossil fuels made up the majority of electricity generation, accounting for 60.8%, followed by renewables (20.1%) and nuclear (18.9%).
Because we depend so much on electricity, we depend on energy producers and suppliers to deliver the power that we need to live our lives in comfort. But, it’s easy to overlook the source of the electricity that we use to power our homes and gadgets.
Being aware of which energy sources generate our electricity is more important than ever, especially with the emergence of electrically charged technologies that are poised to shape the future of how we live. For example, a 2019 report by BloombergNEF projects that by 2040, more than half of all passenger vehicle sales will be electric.
If your electricity is not generated by a renewable, clean energy source, charging these so-called “green” cars from an outlet in your home significantly reduces their environmental benefit. We have already seen this type of unexpected environmental cost with “no-emissions” electric scooters; the generation of electricity to charge the scooters contributed approximately 9,308 tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, equivalent to the energy use of an average house for 650 years.
How To Find Out if Your Energy Source Is Sustainable
Finding out the sustainability of your energy source depends on the generation activities of your energy supplier. This may sound overwhelming, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Power Profiler tool allows you to quickly check how clean your electricity is.
Simply enter your ZIP code and the Power Profiler will compare the fuel mix of sources used to generate electricity for the subregion of your ZIP code against the national fuel mix. The tool also compares the average emission rates for carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide.
While this tool will give you an indication of the different sources that generate electricity in your region, you can also search online for energy producer sustainability reports.
Energy producers and suppliers often release sustainability reports indicating the actions and results of initiatives they are taking to become more environmentally friendly. Gaining access to the reports is relatively easy; they are available on the energy producers’ websites. For example, here is NextEra Energy’s latest report.
How To Choose a Sustainable Energy Supplier
If you live in a state with deregulated energy, you may have the option to choose your energy provider. 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 the “Renewable Energy” section in green; then, under the “Product Type” heading, select “Residential Renewable Electricity”; select your state; and click “Search.” You’ll be presented with the provider, product name, state availability, and a breakdown of how the electricity is produced (wind, solar, biomass, etc.).
If you can’t find any green power options in your area using the Green-e tool, get in touch with local power companies to see if they offer green pricing. Green pricing allows you to pay a small premium in exchange for electricity generated from clean energy sources.
If you want to take further control over the carbon footprint of your electricity, you may want to generate your own electricity through 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 extensive research studies into the micro-mobility industry to uncover interesting insights that spark debate and increase the exposure of electric scooters to the general public.
Originally published on October 14, 2019, this article was updated in July 2022.