Climate Action

Feeling powerless? Switch to green power

The coronavirus pandemic, and the shutdowns that come with it, is changing every part of our lives. This includes how we use electricity.  

Around the world, electricity use is plummeting. Since December, the United States use is down 5%, the European Union is down 6% and India is down a whopping 18%.

With most businesses closed and stay-at-home orders in effect, many people can do little but hunker down in place. And, though the pandemic often makes us feel powerless, it also gives us a chance to reassess our individual behaviors, like our power consumption.

And it starts with switching to green power.

In the U.S., nearly all residences are connected to a centralized grid, which gets most of its energy from fossil fuels. Swapping out fossil fuels like natural gas and coal — both of which emit greenhouse gases that warm the planet — for renewables like wind and solar is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

We’re already heading in the right direction. Despite the drop in oil and gas prices that typically push us toward increased use of fossil fuels, renewable energy sources are set to make up over 20 percent of electricity use in the U.S. for the first time. This is up from 18 percent last year and ten percent in 2010. 

All it takes is a quick phone call or internet search to start the process. 

The simplest and most common way to switch to green energy is simply contacting your local utility company. Here’s how it works:

Utilities distribute energy that they get from an energy provider. Normally, that energy provider gets energy from a mix of fossil fuels. By switching to green power, you’re essentially just switching energy providers — while keeping your utility company. That means it’s very little hassle for you, the consumer. You’ll still get a bill from your same utility company — the supplier will just be a clean-energy provider.

More than 600 out of the roughly 3,300 utilities companies in the U.S. offer this option. If yours is not one of them, you can still buy renewable energy certificates (RECs). Since all power distributed in the U.S. is connected to the grid, buying RECs ensures that your slice of the grid (how much energy you use) is powered by renewable energy.

The switch to green power varies by situation and locale, but the EPA has a lot of resources to get started.

Finally, although it’s more of a commitment, you can create or offset your own energy, through solar panel installations. There’s an upfront cost here, but solar panel costs have been falling, and the investment pays for itself over time through lower electricity bills (plus, solar panels can increase a home’s value).

Many of us feel powerless right now. But we must remember that individual actions — like switching to green energy — can collectively lead to change. On April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, join us for the largest online mobilization in history.