It’s not uncommon to question exactly how your home or workplace’s electricity use relates to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In contrast to the straightforward combustion of fossil fuels that occurs when we drive, we don’t always recognize the emissions that enter the atmosphere as a result of our everyday electricity use.
Most electricity generation in the United States today takes place in thermal power plants, which burn either fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, biofuels, or nuclear fuel in order to heat water and produce steam. The steam spins a turbine to produce electricity, which is then fed into the utility grid. When we burn fossil fuels for electricity, we also produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
The majority of US electricity generated in utility-scale facilities is from coal or natural gas. Another chunk comes from nuclear power plants. All of that electricity generation produces around a third of US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions – the single biggest contributor to GHG emissions in the country. As you improve the energy efficiency of your home or workplace, you need less electricity and thus rely less on carbon-intensive power plants. This reduces the demand from the plant, which in turn benefits the environment by reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.
How energy efficiency and other green measures help the environment:
Reducing your energy use can lower the amount of electricity your utility needs to produce, which you can effectively reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions (and your carbon footprint) with energy efficiency measures. In addition to the direct financial and environmental benefits of implementing energy efficiency measures, coupling energy efficiency with other “green” practices can offer even further advantages.
For example, savings on your electricity bill can be diverted into charging electric vehicles, which further contributes to household savings on fuel and electricity expenditures. Solar panel owners can also generate higher surpluses of net metering credits, which can cut annual energy costs even further. Due to the variety of benefits, implementing energy-efficient practices at home and workplace should be and has been a growing priority among energy-savvy concerned individuals.
Excerpt from ‘The environmental benefits of energy efficiency’ by EnergySage.