Green Energy 101: How to Go Green in 2020

Green Energy 101

By Michael Zaura

January 13, 2020 — The end of a decade and the start of the next is the perfect time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Green (renewable) energy has already made a significant impact on the energy industry, and it’s going to play a huge part going forward. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that renewable sources will generate almost half of the world’s electricity by 2050.

Green Energy 101

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019

Have you been thinking about green energy for your facility? In this post, we’ll:

  • cover the basics of green energy,
  • answer some FAQs, and
  • explore a couple ways you can incorporate renewables into your energy strategy.

What are sources of renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy that is not generated from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). Sources include:

  • Sun (solar energy)
  • Wind
  • Underground heat (geothermal energy)
  • Water (hydroelectric power)
  • Biomass
  • Hydrogen and fuel cells

These sources are naturally replenished over time, which is why they’re considered renewable.

Is nuclear energy green?

Yes…and no.

Nuclear energy produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions during electricity generation compared to coal or natural gas. It’s also more reliable in generation from an efficiency standpoint. Some suppliers even market nuclear as a “carbon-free” product. In those regards, it could be considered “green.”

However, nuclear energy contains uranium, which is not a naturally-occurring resource. Also, the radioactive waste created from the generation process is definitely not environmentally friendly.

Fore more on nuclear, check out these articles:

How to Buy Green Energy

When you’re looking to “go green,” you have two primary courses of action:

  1. Purchasing RECs
  2. Owning a renewable asset

What is a REC?

A Renewable Energy Credit (REC, or SREC for solar) is proof that 1 megawatt-hour of electricity has been generated by a renewable resource. Buying RECs ensures that renewable electricity is being generated on your behalf and delivered to the power grid.

Many clients choose this route as a more affordable alternative to owning the asset outright.

Owning a Renewable Asset

Examples of renewable assets include:

  • A solar array on a rooftop or plot of land
  • A wind turbine
  • A geothermal system in the floor of a building

Investing in a green asset for your facility requires the right amount of space, capital, and the right situation.

If you’re interested in owning a renewable asset, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is one of your financing options. A PPA is a contract between a developer and an electricity consumer. These agreements typically last between 10 and 25 years.

“How do I know that the energy I’m getting to my facility is really green?”

I get this question from clients all the time. And the short answer is: unless you own the asset tied to your facility, you won’t know.

The grid contains both green energy and “brown” (non-renewable) energy. If you purchase RECs, you do ensure that green energy gets to the grid. But you won’t know for sure what part of the mix coming from the grid to your facility is truly green.

Is there green gas?

While most green energy talk revolves around power generation, green or renewable natural gas (RNG) does exist.

Green gas comes from biodegradable materials (think of a landfill) that emits a usable biogas. This biogas is purified and turned into biomethane. Biomethane can then be injected into gas pipelines for end user consumption.

One reason RNG isn’t as prevalent as renewable electricity is because most of the U.S. currently lacks the infrastructure to clean and transport the gas. Once more pipelines and refineries are developed, we will see an increased use of RNG.

Green energy can be in your future.

Is going green part of your plan in the next 30 years?

If renewable sources are going to fuel half of our electricity, more facilities will need to invest in renewable assets. Some countries, corporations, and individuals have already set sustainability goals. As new technologies surrounding green energy continue to evolve, these goals will be easier to achieve.

Cheers to a greener future!

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