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Learn About Energy and the Environment
- What is clean energy?
- How does energy use impact the environment?
- Fuel Mix for U.S. Electricity Generation
- What is my personal impact?
- How can I reduce my impact?
Clean energy includes renewable energy, energy efficiency and efficient combined heat and power.
How does energy use impact the environment?
All forms of electricity generation have an environmental impact on our air, water and land, but it varies. Of the total energy consumed in the United States, about 40% is used to generate electricity, making electricity use an important part of each person’s environmental footprint.
Producing and using electricity more efficiently reduces both the amount of fuel needed to generate electricity and the amount of greenhouse gases and other air pollution emitted as a result. Electricity from renewable resources such as solar, geothermal, and wind generally does not contribute to climate change or local air pollution since no fuels are combusted.
The chart below shows that most of the electricity in the United States is generated using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. A small but growing percentage is generated using renewable resources such as solar and wind.
Using the chart
Mouse over the columns to see the amount and percentage of electricity generated by each source, and click on a resource type in the legend to add or remove it from the chart.
Download the source data file: U.S. Net Generation By Energy Source (XLSX)(25 K)
The emissions caused by electricity generation vary across the country due to many factors, including:
- How much electricity is generated,
- Electricity generation technologies used, and
- Air pollution control devices used
Use EPA's household carbon footprint calculator to estimate your household's annual emissions and find ways you can cut emissions.
Use Power Profiler to generate a report about the environmental impacts of electricity generation in your area of the United States. All you need is your zip code. Power Profiler takes about five minutes to use.
For more in-depth information, visit the Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID), a comprehensive source of data on the environmental characteristics of almost all electric power generated in the United States.