Responsible Purchasing Network

Green Power: Handy Facts

  • In 2005, 70 percent of the electricity in the United States was produced from three fossil fuels – coal, natural gas, and petroleum – three-quarters of which was from coal. Another twenty percent was generated by nuclear. Green power sources account for around nine percent of U.S. electricity generation, with large scale hydro accounting for three-quarters of this total (DOE, 2007).

  • Each year, electric utilities in the United States consume one billion tons of coal, six trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 600 million barrels of oil, and three thousand tons of uranium (EIA, 2006).

  • Fossil fuels burned for electricity generation released 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2005 (EPA, 2007).

  • Each year, coal-fired power plants in the United States produce around 100-million tons of solid wastes, such as ash, slag, and sludge while nuclear power plants produce around 2000 tons of high-level radioactive waste (EPA).

  • Coal-fired power plants are responsible for 67 percent of annual U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions and around 50 percent of industrial mercury emissions to the air (EPA).

  • Mercury emissions from coal power plants are responsible for around 80 percent of fish consumption advisories across the country (USGS, 2003).

  • Thermal power plants use about 25,000 gallons for each MWh of electricity produced (DOE, 2003). Three percent of this water, a daily volume equivalent to 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools, or 500 gallons per MWh, is converted to a form that cannot be returned to the original source (NREL, 2004).

  • In 2005, commercial customers purchased 1.3 billion MWh of electricity (EIA). At an average price paid per MWh of $86, this resulted in a total electricity cost to the commercial sector in 2005 of $110 billion (EIA).

  • In 2004, renewable sources, including large scale hydro, accounted for nine percent of electricity generated. The reference case for the Annual Energy Outlook estimates that in 2030 renewable sources will comprise a slightly smaller share of total electricity generated (EIA, 2007).

  • The total amount of renewable electricity generated in the United States has been increasing at an average rate of 5.8 percent per year. Currently, hydroelectric accounts for 74 percent of U.S. renewable electricity generation, biomass accounts for 17%, wind accounts for 5%, geothermal accounts for 4%, and solar accounts for less than 1% (DOE, 2007).

  • Most of the renewable electricity produced in the United States is sold to customers who have not chosen to buy green power. This might occur, for instance, when states with renewable portfolio standards require by law that a certain percentage of electricity delivered to customers be from renewable sources. The market for voluntary green power purchases is much smaller than the overall green power market, accounting for less than one percent of total U.S. electricity sales in 2005 (NREL, 2006).

  • The Green Power Partnership, managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provides resources and recognition to institutional purchasers of green power.

Creative Commons License This work by the Responsible Purchasing Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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