Electricity isn’t just something that comes from a socket in the wall

Ever wonder where your power comes from?

Today, I and the other Eco-Reps tabled in the Shapiro Atrium to educate the Brandeis community about our energy consumption.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “the grid” tossed around in talk about energy use or energy independence.  The grid is our electrical infrastructure, composed of sources of generation, transmission, and consumption.  A non-profit coalition called ISO New England (located in my home of Western Mass!) manages New England’s electricity grid.  Because the grid is entirely inter-connected, the electricity you use at Brandeis comes from a variety of sources from all over the region.  The pie chart below describes how your electricity is generated.

(source: New England Wind Fund)

As you can see, the biggest sources (natural gas, nuclear, coal, and oil) are not the greenest.  In fact, in Massachusetts over 80% of power is generated from fossil fuels and nuclear material.

The top 10 electricity generators in New England are as follows:

  1. Seabrook Station – Seabrook, NH (Nuclear)
  2. Millstone Point Station – Watertown, CT (Nuclear)
  3. Fore River Station – North Weymouth, MA (Natural Gas/Diesel)
  4. Mystic Station – Everett, MA (Natural Gas/Oil)
  5. Pilgrim Station – Plymouth, MA (Nuclear)
  6. Granite Ridge Energy – Londonderry, NH (Natural Gas)
  7. Brayton Point Station – Somerset, MA (Coal) [one of the Conservation Law Foundation’s “Filthy Five” and the largest source of air pollution in New England.  In 2000, the plant emitted: 44,586 tons of Sulfur Dioxide (acid rain), 13,636 tons of Nitrogen Oxide (smog), 7,925,715 tons of Carbon Dioxide (global warming), 240 lbs mercury (enough to poison 120 million pounds of fish).]
  8. Vermont Yankee Station – Vernon, VT (Nuclear)
  9. Wyman Station – Yarmouth, ME (Oil)
  10. Mirant Canal Generating Plant – Sandwich, MA (Oil)

OK, so the mix isn’t so good.  Is there something you can do about it?  The answer is yes.

I have to give some credit to Brandeis.  Our university purchases 15% of its power from wind by using renewable energy certificates (RECs).  Since the grid is all inter-connected, you can buy renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro) from a source such as Maine Interfaith Power and Light.  The amount you buy creates greater demand from that renewable source, generates the green electricity, and replaces dirtier electricity that otherwise would have to have been generated to provide you with power.  I bought 1 “Wind Watt” before the semester began for just $20 and my roommate and I still haven’t used all of it in our Charles River Apartment.  For this semester, my apartment has been powered 100% by wind.

If you have any more questions about power generation or related topics, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.