What we talk about when we talk about electricity

Electricity isn’t simply electricity - there’s a whole science to it. Which is why we’ve set out to explain the most common (and some not-so-common) words and sentences floating around.

First things first, a little background story telling to set the scene. Did you know that only one fourth of the electricity generated globally is made from renewable sources? This means that our world still primarily runs on dirty electricity, generated by burning coal, oil and natural gas. It naturally also has a major impact on our environment, and additionally plays a huge role in current and historical geopolitical realities.

Change is coming

This is slowly changing however and by 2050, the International Energy Agency forecasts that solar power will be the largest source of energy, albeit still only making up about 20% of all power generated. Either way you look at it, the formula is pretty basic. The more of our energy palate that stems from fossil free sources equals less global warming (and as a bonus for our efforts we get improved public health, economic benefits and a more stable energy sector).

The good news is that every single individual can make a difference. The easiest and by far fastest way to make an impact is to dial up your electricity provider and ask them if they offer green electricity. If not, question why? And if they ultimately can’t offer what you and the planet wants - change to a provider that can. Or, you can even become your own electricity producer (more about that in a different article)!

Before you do anything though, let's dive into some phraseology that will come in handy when you talk to your power company - or simply want to flex your knowledge in the coming move towards a zero-emission society.

Fossil fuels

These are your typical hydrocarbon sources of energy, the most common being coal, oil and natural gas. It doesn’t matter how you twist and turn things, using these sources isn’t viable from a sustainability standpoint. Most likely, if you haven’t actively told them to do otherwise, your electricity company will provide you with a mix of fossil and green(er) electricity.

Fossil free

Electricity produced from other sources than the above. These are virtually free of CO2-emissions. Think water, wind and, notably, nuclear power.

Renewable energy

Electricity produced from water, wind and the sun. This is generally better for the environment, but it is worth mentioning that some of the production methods are far from contested. As an example, hydropower (water) have been known to significantly alter landscapes, itself troublesome.

Green electricity

This term is often used interchangeably with renewable power, but it is important to note that there are no official requirements on what can be called “green” and no independent audits are made to guarantee these claims.

Certified, green electricity

Again, there are no global standards, rather a multitude of different labels that each live up to their own promises(e.g. Bra miljöval, EcoEnergy, etc). Some of these also take into consideration additional environmental conditions to be met, to make sure that eco systems and fauna are adequately preserved.

Sustainable energy

An elegant way of defining sustainability is as an energy system that serves the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations.

Micro producer

People or entities that are producing their own energy, most often harnessing the power of the sun or wind, and positively contributing new, pure energy to the system. If there is a surplus it can be fed into the system and passed on to others, lessening the need for fossil fuels in the process.