Electricity is fantastically convenient and clean at the point of use, yet it is the dirtiest of all the fuels we see in our homes because so much energy is wasted in the power station. Out of sight and out of mind, power stations relentlessly spew carbon dioxide and toxic particles into the air. Greening up your electricity use is therefore a top domestic priority.
National electricity generation
Most of the electricity produced in Britain is generated in coal (37%), gas (35%) and nuclear (19%) power stations. Only 4% comes from 'renewable' sources, and much of this is from burning the gas that comes off landfill waste dumps. The supply of truely sustainable electricity, such as wood, wind and solar power, is increasing.
Coal and gas power stations ae the single biggest source of caron dioxide emissions in the UK. Modern gas-fired power stations are the most efficient of the fossil-fuel stations, but half the energy in the gas is still lost up the power station chimney as heat rather than converted to electricty. Nuclear power stations have low carbon emissions but create an ever-growing stockpile of radioactive waste that will remain toxic for thousands of years (long after all current civilisations have disappeared). Whatever the pros and cons may be of fossil fuels and nuclear power, neither can be considered green.
There are three ways you can reduce the environmental impact of your electricity consumption: use less, make your own and switch to a renewable supplier. The first of these is by far the most important. As we will never be able to meet our current national demand for electricity using renewable power alone, a truly green future for electricty is only possible if we can radically reduce demand as well as increasing renewable supply. If you can also boost this supply by installing some renewable power of your own, so much the better.
Everyone can take steps to reduce their ue of electricity. If you use electricity for heating and hot water, consider whether you could switch to a different fuel. It is far more efficient to burn gas in a boiler to heat your home than to burn it in a distant power station and then use the electricity generated for the same purpose
Make your own
Most households in Britain could generate some or all of their own electricity. If you have a sunny roof or wall, solar power is within your reach. If you have an unobstructed view of the prevailing wind, a wind turbine is definitely wirth considering. If a river runs through your back garden, a water turbine is a possibility.