Buying Green and Renewable Energy: Weighing the Options

Many of us want to buy renewable energy for our homes. We are tired of burning natural gas or coal, both of which contribute to climate change and changes in air quality. However, for many people renewable energy is a challenging thing to create at home. You might live in an apartment and be unable to install solar panels or a wind turbine. If this is just not possible, there is a way to contribute to the production of green and renewable energy without installing it yourself.

What energy are you buying right now, and how green is it? In the United States, most electricity comes from coal. Coal emissions cause smog, particle pollution, and acid rain. Coal is also the largest energy-related source of global warming emissions. Oil is another dirty fuel. Burning oil pollutes the air and leads to global warming through its production of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. Natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, but it is still a fossil fuel that leads to emissions. Nuclear power does not contribute to global warming, but it does create radioactive waste that will be dangerous for many generations to come.

What is considered green power? Geothermal energy is energy from the ground. The heat from the earth creates energy. Solar power is sun energy. Wind energy takes the power of the air and uses it to move a turbine. Large scale wind energy has been criticized for its noise and its interruption to the flight paths of migrating birds. Two controversial forms of renewable energy are hydroelectricity, the use of water from dams to create energy. While this does not burn fossil fuels, it does cover forests and farms with water. Bio fuels are made from plants. Some of these plants may be waste products, while others may be grown specifically for their use as fuel, displacing food crops. When you buy green energy, take a close look at what you are buying and whether you support its use.

The simplest way to support green energy is to switch your home electricity bill to green pricing. Check to see if your provider offers this option. This electricity is sold at a higher price and supports the electricity provider in its efforts to increase the renewable energy it has available. You can also switch providers if your current provider does not have a green option. You can find a list of green electricity providers at the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

If you want to buy and support green power but your electricity provider does not offer that option, you can show your support by buying Renewable Energy Certificates. Essentially, these are a contribution to the production of green energy, and each credit usually equals one kilowatt-hour of energy. You can’t say that you’re using this energy yourself, but you are paying for it to be added to the grid.

For those of us who are unable to install green technologies, contributing to the overall production of green energy is a good way to reduce the impact of the energy system as a whole.

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