Do You Know Where Your Power Comes From?

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Do you know where the power in your home comes from? Many of us don’t and some, predictably, don’t much care. As long as the lights go on when you hit the switch and the coffee maker starts bubbling on time every morning, we don’t need to know much more than that.

And, besides, electricity is electricity. If you make it at a nuclear power plant or if you make it using the generator under the hood of your car, it provides the same jolt. Someone might know the difference,  but a light bulb, a refrigerator or a vacuum cleaner doesn’t care where the juice came from.

But, man, there is a lot of juice out there. Energy is one of the most critical cultural, economic and environmental issues on the planet today – a concern of every government in the world and of anyone who envisions living well in the 21st century.

So, let’s track where your power comes from and touch upon why it matters. Especially, because there are so many enormous shifts taking place in the energy sector today.

Electricity can come from coal or natural gas-burning power plants, hydro power dams, nuclear power plants and from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. There are also lesser-used sources, like geothermal sources and turning turbines by making use of coastal tides.

Even today, coal-fired, natural gas, diesel and oil-burning power plants create the largest share of the U.S. energy supply – currently about 67 percent. It other countries, like China, it is higher with coal alone accounting for 70 percent of the country’s energy generation in 2012.

What’s good and bad about coal? It’s cheap – but it is one of the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Even this week, the annual New Energy Outlook 2015 report from Bloomberg Financial says, “Despite investment of $8 trillion in renewables, there will be enough legacy fossil-fuel plants and enough investment in new coal-fired capacity in developing countries to ensure global CO2 emissions rise all the way to 2029, and will still be 13 percent above 2014 levels in 2040.”

Concern over global warming, in fact, is critical to the energy debate and guiding energy policies around the world. Completing the picture in the United States 19 percent of the power generation comes from nuclear power plants and 7 percent comes from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and hydro power.

On the other hand, expect, “solar, solar everywhere,” in the next 25 years and an unexpected slowdown in demand for power based on the point that our appliances will become more efficient, Bloomberg said.

However, the most critical factor in choosing a source for your home’s power is tied to a policy called “deregulation.”

To get a vision of deregulation, you have to understand that there are two requirements to get electricity into your home. One is you need electricity to send to your home. And two, you need the transmission wires, transformers and power stations to get the electricity to you.

With deregulation, one company can own the wires, but not own the electricity that goes through those wires.

The idea behind deregulation is to increase competition among companies. If one company owns the electricity and the transmission lines, it means prices are less competitive. If many companies can control the supply, then prices have a chance to stay low or drop, because competing companies will offer low prices to sign up new customers.

But in the modern era, while most states have opted for deregulation of electricity or natural gas or both, the landscape is suddenly changing from the customer’s perspective.

This is because companies in deregulated states can not only offer better prices, but they can offer a variety of energy sources. In a deregulated state, you can seek out a company that allows you to check what you want as an energy source – coal, hydro, nuclear or renewable sources.

Whereas in the past, a customer had no choice over where their power came from – generally it was owned by the local utility company. Now new companies, like, have formed to offer customers a wide range of energy supplier programs from competing companies. Click here to learn more about the providers in your area.

Suddenly, the customer is much more in the driver’s seat. And many would say this is just in time, given the serious implications of the choices we make.