Electricity is powerful, we all know that. Worldwide, many individuals are flicking a switch, connecting or clicking on an “on” button—this leads to the automatic turn-on of an appliance, electric device, or a simple light bulb. But have you ever thought about what happens before the wires? How does it, after being generated miles and miles away, arrive at your home? And even more interesting, how is it being produced?
You know by now that America uses and produces different types and sources of energy, we can divide this into two primary groups: renewable sources and non-renewable sources of energy. On this blog, we will debrief the 4 most important – and common–non-renewable sources of energy.
Non-renewable sources of energy
According to the US Energy Information Administration, In 2020, about 4,009 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) (or about 4.01 trillion kWh) of electricity were generated at utility-scale electricity generation facilities in the United States.1 About 60% of this electricity generation was from fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases. About 20% was from nuclear energy, and about 20% was from renewable energy sources. This provides a clear landscape. Non-renewable sources account still as 80% of sources of energy in the States. But what are these all about?
With 60% of the share, it’s important to understand where do these fossil fuels, often called brown energy, come from. Plant and animal remnants accumulated in thick layers on the earth’s surface and ocean floors. These were often combined with sand, silt, and calcium carbonate over extended periods.
As time goes by, they were buried beneath sand, silt, and rock. This resulted in some of this carbon-and hydrogen-rich material converted into coal, some into oil (petroleum), and some into natural gas because of pressure and heat.
1. Natural gas
Accounting for 40% of the most used—and produced – energy source, natural gas is a source of energy that is found deep beneath the surface. It is composed of mostly methane, but it also contains smaller amounts of natural gas liquids (NGL, which are also hydrocarbon gas liquids), and non-hydrocarbon gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor.
When geologists find the natural gas deposit, an exploratory well is drilled and tested. If the results are positive, and this geological formation has enough gas to generate and profit from, more wells are drilled. This is then sent to processing plants and then sent through pipelines to the distributors and ultimate consumers.
Fun fact: do you know where that rotten-egg smell comes from? Natural gas has no color, odor, or taste, thus, to avoid any hazards, companies add mercaptan—or methane thiol, a non-toxic compound that makes it smell that way.
Second on the list of electricity non-renewable sources of energy is coal. You probably have heard about it in history classes when they spoke about the boom of the industrial revolution. Well, we will tell you what it is and how it produces electricity.
Coal is one of the largest non-renewable sources of energy—it is a black rock mainly made up of carbon and hydrocarbons, both of which contain energy that may be released when burned (burning). There are 4 main types of coal, anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. The main difference between them is the type and amount of carbon it has. This material can be found in two types of mining: surface mining and underground mining.
Traditionally known as the most important non-renewable sources of energy in the States (for total energy consumption). It is used to power cars, heat buildings, generate energy, and, lastly, manufacture plastics, polyurethane, etc. If we look at the facts of the Energy Information Administration in 2018, for example, 20,5% of the petroleum consumption worldwide was made by the US. In 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumption at 18,122million barrels a day – 13% lower than before pandemics – yet quite high bearing in mind the major shutdowns.
Out of the whole production of this, 1,1% of the energy is used to produce electric power. Which accounts for 0,4% of the total electricity generation.
One of the most controversial non-renewable sources of energy. To make it simple, nuclear energy uses the energy produced when the atoms are divided. The first use of it, or the creation of it, in the 1940s, was made to produce nuclear bombs that were more powerful than regular ones. This exploded – literally – with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, an atrocious event that costed the lives of more than 200,000 people.
After WWII, attention turned to the peaceful usage of nuclear power. And how this was going to be helpful to produce much more energy than any other source of energy ever before. According to data from the World Nuclear Association, nuclear power plants are operational in 31 nations, there have existed more than 18,000 reactors throughout the years and currently about 10% of the energy produced worldwide comes from nuclear power.
In 2020, there were 441 operable reactors in the world. In the US, only nuclear power accounted for 19,7% of the share of the electricity non-renewable sources of energy in the same year. And it is the country with more nuclear energy generation in the world, followed by France and China.
The mix of energy use and production in the United States has shifted over time. For more than a century, fossil fuels have dominated the American energy mix, but that has altered over time. As we saw before, fossil fuels were formed by processes that took place over millions of years. These processes cannot be reproduced by humankind, and, as the name states, non-renewable sources of energy are those that will run out eventually. The first to run out will be oil and gas, followed by coal.
More and more renewable energy has been produced, aiming to completely stop using non-renewable sources of energy in a near future, and with the deregulation of the energy industry, you have the power to choose how you want your energy to be generated. So now that you know more about the different sources of energy, we encourage you to take control of it.
At Power Choice Now, we want you to embrace your power to choose and to decide to have the best service for less money. Visit us now to find out more about energy deregulation and how you can benefit from it.