Environmental Impact

Environmental Impact

How Our Energy Affects Us

Regardless of whether you notice or not, the energy that you consume has some sort of impact on the environment. Of the total energy consumed in the United States, about 40% is used to generate electricity, making electricity use an important part of each person’s environmental footprint. Using electricity more efficiently reduces both the amount of fuel needed to generate electricity and the amount of greenhouse gases and other emissions emitted in the process. Understanding how the amount and type of energy we consume affects the planet, can promote interest and demand for higher or full renewable content in the electricity plans selected which can effectively avoid or minimize these impacts as we continue to use energy.

Non-Renewable Energy: Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas, are non-renewable resources that formed from organic material over the course of millions of years. They are currently the world’s primary energy source and supply about 79 percent of the energy consumed in the US.

Fossil fuels are important to satisfy growing energy demands and keep the world moving. They are used massively for transportation, industry, and power generation. However, there are problematic effects of using them. The burning of fossil fuels is considered the largest contributing factor to the release of greenhouse gases.  Since the combustion of these fuels emits compounds such as carbon dioxide and methane, fossil fuels have been the biggest cause behind increased global warming.

It is important to keep in mind that not all fossil fuels are equally damaging, cheap natural gas, has half the CO2 emissions of coal and while it has its own challenges, it is considered a cleaner fuel in the transition towards our low-carbon future. In fact, between 2007 and 2017 the USA reduced carbon emissions by 14% replacing coal with cleaner gas from Texas. For our state, Texas grid operator ERCOT reported that in 2018 the electricity generated in the state came 40% from gas and 19% from wind. Coal represented 25% down from 40% in 2010.

Renewable Energy: Wind and Solar

Renewable power is power generated from naturally-replenishing resources that aren’t depleted when used, such as wind or solar power. The increase in adoption of Renewable energy can help the environment by reducing the carbon emissions associated of fossil fuels and cut down on global warming emissions. Clean energy can also reduce air and water pollution otherwise generated by coal and natural gas plants and does not have to consider water scarcity.

Although the cost of installing and maintaining renewables has long been a concern for mass adoption, the costs of renewable energy equipment have lately been on a downward trend, making renewable energy much more affordable. In fact, renewable facilities can operate at very low costs, with wind and utility-scale solar being the least expensive energy generating sources.

On top of all that, renewable energy can provide a stand-alone power system for electricity that is reliable and cheap. This means that renewable sources are accessible and able to supply even remote and off-the-grid communities with electricity.