Currently (employing both meanings of current) in the U.S., our electricity comes from these sources: Coal (45.4%), natural gas (21%), nuclear (21%), hydroelectric (7.5%), renewable forms (4.2%), and petroleum, (1.2%).
Within the renewables, the percentages are: Wind (45.6%), Wood and wood derived fuels (29%), other biomass (13%), Geothermal (11.5%), solar (less than 1% of renewables).
These numbers reflect positive changes in the mix of the last few years, e.g. less coal, more renewables.
The power that comes to us from our local grid is determined by the utility that is providing it, and their sources vary widely. For example, since California requires utilities to supply a “power content label” customers can find out the sources of the electricity that comes to their homes. In California (which does import 27% of its energy from other states) natural gas currently supplies the largest amount 46.5%, nuclear and coal supplies similar amounts, around 15% each, and large hydroelectric plants supplies close to 10%. Renewable energy provids 13.5%, compared to the national average of 4.2%. Of that, most comes from geothermal and wind. Even though California leads in solar production, it remains at less than 1% of total. Of the 29 states that have Renewable Portfolio Standards, (an RPS requires utilities to provide a certain minimum amount of renewable energy) California’s is the most ambitious, with a goal of 20% by the year 2010.
Indiana, on the other end of the spectrum, is a big manufacturing state with plentiful coal, getting 89% of their electricity from it, and less than .1% from renewables. Indiana is one of the few states in the northern half of the country that does not have a Renewable Portfolio Standard. Most southern states also do not have them.
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Barbara Hirsch, Just Retired Recording Technician
Arts Library, UC Santa Barbara
“Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get
better. It’s not.”
– The Lorax, Children’s book by Dr. Seuss