Where does your home’s energy come from?
For some, it doesn’t matter as long as the lights are on, and that’s understandable. We’re not generally taught to think about the source of the products we buy as long as stuff is always there to be bought. The idea of “conscious consumerism” is all about changing the way we think about the stuff we buy, including the energy for our homes.
What Makes Energy Renewable?
The difference that sets renewable energy aside from other sources is that it is constantly replenished. Solar, wind, and water are well known renewable sources and serve as great examples for why we use the term “renewable”. The wind doesn’t stop blowing, gravity keeps water flowing, and the sun will rise tomorrow like it did yesterday.
The energy resources we’ve been using throughout human history have largely been “dirty” and not as quickly replenished. Coal and oil have worked well to power us up to this point in our history but there are a few issues with relying on fossil fuels as our main source of energy.
- Fossil fuels are not evenly spread around the globe. You may have noticed that oil and coal are collected from dense deposits in different plots of land around the world. The places and people that have control of these deposits are few and far between. Controlling fuel grants a lot of power, but it also lends itself to war over access. You don’t see this same scarcity in renewable resources, like wind and solar.
- Fossil fuels take forever to naturally replenish. Coal, oil, and natural gas all form through complex processes that happen over a long period of time. The solar energy that bounces off the earth’s surface everyday is about the same amount of fossil fuel that powers the globe throughout one year. The big oil, coal, and gas supply we’ve been tapping into this whole time has taken tens and hundreds of millions of years to build up. I can’t claim to be a specialist, but it seems obvious that we’re using these resources at a faster rate than they can be restored. That’s almost the definition of unsustainability.
- Harvesting and burning fossil fuels damages our environment. Tons of debate about this topic, but I don’t see the grey area. Pulling resources out of the ground is damaging and takes a lot of time to repair. Or it may contaminate other resources like soil and water. It’d make sense to continue burning coal and gas if the entire process didn’t destroy the world we live in.
Okay, But Renewable Energy is Still Too Expensive
The common idea of solar power or wind farms is what we think of as being expensive. If you want solar panels installed on your home, it will probably cost a lot upfront for installation and materials. Building structures big enough to harness wind energy is even more expensive.
If that is your only knowledge of how you can access renewable energy, of course the price is going to stop a lot of people from choosing this as their power source. But, the energy provider you're with right now, probably already has a much cheaper option available. You could run your home on 100% renewable energy for nothing more than a small increase on your monthly bill.
Right now, many of your energy providers are aiming to switch to renewable sources, so your house is probably already getting some renewable power as more energy in general comes from wind and solar.
For example, Xcel Energy homes receive about 28% of their power from clean sources, from standard sign-up. If you want to get to 100% clean energy, there are programs you can sign up for. A few of them, here, offer different values. Their “Solar Rewards” option deals with installing solar panels on your home and earning incentives for generating electricity. The “Solar Rewards Community” option allows you to skip installing solar panels on your home, and you instead piggyback off of a local solar farm. You could also sign up for Xcel’s “Windsource” program, which gives you all the benefits of wind energy.
I did a little research and found that Xcel is not alone in offering these kinds of programs as they shift towards a renewable future. Con-Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and more big providers are switching their focus and making renewable energy more accessible.
We could make a real difference in the future of our earth by simply switching to renewable, let’s start now.