When you flip on a ceiling fan or hit the power button on your TV remote, do you have ANY idea where that energy comes from?
On any given day, it’s impossible to know exactly what power source—coal, nuclear, wind, etc.—is generating the electrons flowing into your home. But you can get an idea of what sources your power came from over the course of a year. Every three months, the state requires all energy suppliers—utilities and alternative suppliers—to file an environmental disclosure form listing their power sources over the past 12 months.
ComEd’s 2012 statement showed the top three sources of its supply as coal (42 percent), nuclear (35 percent), and natural gas (19 percent). Wind accounted for 2 percent, while hydro and other sources accounted for 1 percent each.
Ameren claimed 68 percent from coal power, 13 percent from nuclear, 10 percent from gas, and 8 percent from renewables (7 percent of that coming from wind).
The picture gets cloudier for the millions of Illinois consumers who have switched to an alternative supplier. Although the ICC has environmental disclosure forms for all the suppliers, some individual and municipal aggregation offers promise “green” energy, or other fuel mixes different than the companies’ total mix.
But when an alternative supplier promises you “green electricity,” that doesn’t mean wind farm electrons are taking the express lane to your coffeemaker. It means that for every kilowatt-hour you pay for, a renewable energy generator is adding the same amount to the grid—somewhere. Renewable energy certificates, or RECs, are one way companies can take credit for renewable energy that was added to the power grid—but not necessarily generated in Illinois or even in the Midwest.
The City of Chicago uses RECs in its deal with Integrys Energy Services, which is supplying residents with power through May of 2015. But the City took it one step further, arranging with Integrys that no Chicago customer money will go to coal plant operators for the term of the deal.
Check out the fuel mix for your energy supplier. Does that factor into your decision when choosing a supplier? Let us know in the comments!