Electricity is different from other forms of energy because it merely delivers the energy harnessed from other materials, the primary energy source, at the generating facility.

Click on the tabs below to learn about electricity and its contribution to your carbon footprint.

Electricity Generation

Once the primary energy source arrives at the generating station, its energy is transformed into electricity in a generator—a machine consisting of powerful magnets that spin around heavy wires. The magnets induce electrons to move in the wires, creating electric current to send to customers.

Nearly all electricity manufactured for the U.S. power grid comes from generating stations that use turbines to spin the magnets. The energy source determines what spins the turbine—and its carbon footprint.

More on electricity generation in North Dakota:
Spotlight on Energy


How Much Energy Is Used to Make Electricity?

In 2014, 39% of the energy consumed in the United States was transformed into electricity to power our homes, businesses, infrastructure, and so on.1 (The other 61% was consumed to heat homes and businesses, for transportation, and for manufacturing.)

How Much Electricity Do We Make?

In 2014, the United States generated about 4093 billion kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity.2 About 67% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum). Nuclear power provided 19%. Hydropower provided 6%, and other renewables made up 7%.

1www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/flow/css_2014_energy.pdf (accessed July 13, 2015). 2www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3 (accessed March 16, 2017).

Electricity’s Carbon Footprint Happens at the Power Plant.

When fossil fuels burn, the carbon in the fuel combines with oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide—part of our carbon footprint.

Operating hydroelectric and wind farm, other renewable (geothermal and solar), and nuclear generating stations does not increase our carbon footprint. Generating electricity by burning biomass also produces carbon dioxide, but biomass is part of the natural carbon cycle and does not contribute to our carbon footprint.

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon calculator, the carbon footprint of electricity for most of North Dakota is 1.5 lb of CO2 per kWh.

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Developed for the North Dakota Department of Commerce Division of Community Services with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy