Clean Energy Explained
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 60% of electricity generated in 2020 was from fossil fuels such as coal (19.3%) and natural gas (40.5%). While fossil fuels provide the majority of energy to U.S. homes, a variety of clean energy sources are growing contributors to the power grid. Around 20% (19.7%) was generated by emission-free nuclear energy, while another 20% (19.8%) was generated by renewable resources, including wind (8.4%), solar (2.3%), and hydropower (7.3%).
A 2020 Pew Research Center report on what Americans think the government should do about climate change found that there is bipartisan backing for the federal action on climate change. Around 79% of Americans agreed that developing alternative energy sources is an important priority. Still, understanding your options can be complex, and the terms we use to talk about environmentally friendly energy can be confusing. Is green energy clean energy? What’s the difference? Are carbon-free resources all sustainable? These are natural questions for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
How energy sources compare
Helpful guide to common terms
Clean energy refers to energy produced with little to no greenhouse gas emissions. This includes low-carbon and carbon-free energy sources such as nuclear.
Reliability refers to the ability to offer a steady supply of power, like fossil fuels, nuclear and hydroelectric. Sources like solar and wind offer an intermittent supply that can fluctuate by time of day or changes in weather.
Renewable energy, also called "green" energy, refers to energy that comes from natural resources, such as wind, solar, and water. All renewable resources are considered "clean," though there is some debate over the impact of large-scale hydroelectric dams and wind farms on local wildlife.
Capacity is the ability to generate a significant share of the energy supply and meet additional demand as demand fluctuates. Fossil fuels and nuclear supply 86.6% of the U.S. energy needs. Significant investment in infrastructure and storage technology is needed before renewables are able to replace the supply provided by fossil fuels.
Sustainable energy refers to energy sources that will not be depleted for the foreseeable future. All sources of renewable energy are considered sustainable. While nuclear energy is not always considered renewable, it is widely considered sustainable due to its lack of pollution and abundant supply.
How to take advantage of clean energy as a consumer
Clean energy is growing in popularity as an option for consumers. In fact, the amount of renewable energy used in the U.S. matched the share of energy produced from coal at 11.3% each the total of energy consumed in 2019, and actually exceeded the share of energy generated from coal in 2020 with 12.6% of the energy consumed produced from renewable sources vs only 9.9% from coal. There are many ways to purchase clean energy. Below are a few of the most popular and available clean energy options and their comparative strengths:
Clean electricity options from energy suppliers
Emission Free Energy Certificates
Some energy suppliers, including Energy Harbor, provide customers with simple and affordable access to clean energy by offering Emission Free Energy Certificates (EFECs). EFECs help consumers make more sustainable choices without significant expense and effort. Energy Harbor offers EFECs from four carbon-free nuclear generation units. These units are capable of generating more than thirty million EFEC’s annually, making Energy Harbor one of the few retailers able to offer EFECs to customers. Nuclear energy provides more than 52% of the carbon-free electricity in the United States.
Energy Harbor offers customers a wide selection of affordable green and carbon-free electricity plans that allow you to do your part to protect the environment. Compare plans in your area today.