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America’s Carbon Footprint and Cleaning Up the Electricity Grid

When you turn on your lights or use a kitchen appliance, do you ever wonder where its electricity comes from? What produced it and what helped move it from its source to where you are?

What is the electricity grid? 

That’s where the electricity grid comes into play, but there’s something that you should know: it isn’t just a single, uniform grid. According to the Canadian Electricity Association, “The North American power grid is a [system] of networks that delivers electricity from where it is generated to the homes, businesses, and communities who use it.” The U.S. Energy Information Administration goes into further detail, writing, “In the United States, the entire electricity grid consists of hundreds of thousands of miles of high-voltage power lines and millions of miles of low-voltage power lines with distribution transformers that connect thousands of power plants to hundreds of millions of electricity customers all across the country.”

Just walk down the street and you start to notice the hundreds of cables all around us carrying electricity. 

The electricity grid is a top contributor to America’s Carbon Footprint

Emissions reports conducted by the EPA and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, each of which conclude that the second largest overall producer of American carbon emissions is our electricity. Roughly 25% of our country’s carbon emissions are generated from the production of electricity.

Source: United States Environment Protection Agency

Only 4% behind transportation, the largest emitter in 2019, electricity production represents an increasingly significant portion of our national carbon emissions. It’s crucial that we address each sector that contributes to American emissions, but solving the climate implications of electricity production is more possible than ever right now.

The environmental and health effects of flipping on the lights depend on where you live

We know that electricity travels to your home and that it doesn’t all come from the same place, but what makes a difference about where it’s produced?

Depending on where you live, using the power in your home could cause more carbon emissions than it would elsewhere. Areas without access to carbon-free clean sources of energy — like hydropower, wind power, and solar power — rely on burning dirty fossil fuels to power their electric grids. In fact, in 2020, only 8% of all energy generated in the United States came from renewables, with only 2% coming from solar power. The good news is that we have the technology to clean up the grid. That’s right! We can do something meaningful about climate change at scale, while expanding access to clean energy. 

We have the technology to reduce carbon emissions at scale 

That’s why Clearloop is on the case! We’re working with the idea that the change from using fossil fuels to renewable energy in order to power the American electric grid will significantly reduce our national carbon emissions. The technology to jumpstart this change is already here. Our friends at Energy Electives and Silicon Ranch are spearheading a crucial and necessary implementation of solar power. Our own application of this new technology will start with our 1-megawatt solar project, which will expand access to clean energy to 200 homes in Jackson, Tennessee. The even better news is that with your help, this model can and will be replicated across the country

Renewable energy: a “workhorse” for climate action

We’ll end with a statement from our Co-Founder and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen in an address to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis:

I respectfully [ask] to everyone who cares about climate action: … Where’s the low-hanging fruit?  Where’s the first place to go?

I believe that question has an answer: The lowest-hanging fruit is the generation of electricity in this country. Power generation, even after all the progress we’ve made with renewables and conversion to natural gas in the past decade, still creates 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. To put that in perspective, our grid today produces more greenhouse gases than every car on the road and every airplane in the sky in America. The rise of electric cars and the power demand that follows will put an even bigger strain on this grid.

The electric grid is an enormous opportunity for decarbonization – the tools that are already in place. The technology is mature, the economics make sense. Renewable energy has been around a while; it’s no longer this year’s show-horse. But it really is the workhorse that we need right now to get started in a serious way.

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Want to learn more about how to reclaim your company’s carbon footprint and expand access to clean energy with Clearloop? Drop us a note at hello@clearloop.us or contact us here.

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