Energy and the Environment

Learn about Energy and its Impact on the Environment

What is clean energy?

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.

Fuel mix for U.S. electricity generation

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.


What is my personal impact?

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.

How can I reduce my impact?

There are many ways to reduce the environmental impacts of your energy use. Visit the reduce your impact page to learn more.