where does your electricity come from

Where does your electricity come from?

The electric grid brings power to every corner of the U.S., but the electricity flowing through the wires doesn’t come from the same sources everywhere. Depending on where you live, the electricity that makes its way to your property comes from different mixes of generating capacity, from coal to natural gas to renewables like hydropower, solar, and wind. 

Key takeaways

  • Overall, the United States generates the most electricity with natural gas – 40.5% of all electricity produced, to be exact.
  • Renewable energy is very close to being the second-largest producer of electricity in the country at 18.2% of total generation.
  • Control where your electricity comes from by installing a rooftop solar system or signing up for community solar.

How to find where your energy comes from

Energy from the electric grid powers everything in our homes from small devices to our internet connections, lights, refrigerators, and even electric vehicles. Most people may not even think about the source of this energy after signing up for the provider near them. However doing so is not only easy, it is an important way to be responsible about making more environmentally friendly choices in your life. Here are the steps on how to find where your energy comes from.

1. Contact your utility

Finding out how your electricity is generated can be as easy as doing some research into your provider. Many utilities even publish the mix of energy sources they draw from online, saving you the step of having to call. Sometimes this is not so straightforward, however as many utilities don’t publish this information because they aren’t vertically integrated. While you may be able to find the mix of energy sources from a vertically integrated utility which generates their own power through things like nuclear energy plants and wind farms, you probably will not be able to from providers who only work to distribute the energy generated by separate companies.

2. Use energy industry and regulatory data

If you get your energy from a non-vertically integrated utility or you otherwise can’t find the mix of energy sources from your provider, there are still many resources at your disposal. By using maps such as this one from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, you can find out if your energy comes from a regional transmission organization (RTO) or independent system operator (ISO). If you live in an area served by either one of these types of entities, you can simply look up the name of the entity near you and follow the same process that you would if finding the energy mix from your utility. 

3. Use local data from energy data aggregators

If you live in an area not served by either an RTO or an ISO and your utility can’t give you exact information on where your electricity comes from, there are also databases with highly specific local information.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has a tool called the Power Profiler, which allows you to put in your zip code to see where energy comes from in your area. 
  • The American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator, a renewable energy program sponsored by Bloomberg also has their own tool where you can see state-level information about where electricity comes from.

How does the electrical grid work?

The electrical grid is a complex network of electrical generators (i.e., power plants) and transmission and distribution lines that dynamically responds to shifts in electrical supply and demand to make sure electricity is always supplied reliably. Those electrical generators can be any type – from coal and natural gas plants to renewable power stations. 

To keep the grid functioning requires a delicate balance between supply and demand, as well as a highly integrated series of components throughout the country. Grid operators, such as the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland Regional Transmission Operator (PJM RTO), maintain this balance through a mix of market awareness and insights plus forecasts of weather, demand, and supply, with a goal of providing low-cost and reliable electricity service. 

Where does your state’s electricity come from?

The total mix of electricity flowing through the power grid comes from thousands of individual generators, all connected and supplying electricity to the grid through distribution networks. These generators use all sorts of fuels – mainly, the U.S. electric grid carries electricity generated by coal, natural gas, petroleum, nuclear power, and renewable energy. State by state, the exact percentages of each generating source differ:

State by state electrical generation mix

STATESolarOther renewablesCoalNatural gasPetroleumNuclearOther

Interestingly, these percentages can fluctuate significantly! For example, Vermont gets 0% of its electricity from coal and more than 90% from renewables, while Utah is nearly the reverse – 61.5% from coal and only 12.3% from renewables. These differences stem from several factors, with policy playing a major role.

National electricity generation trends

As shown above, electricity generation varies significantly by state. Most states still get their largest chunk of electricity from natural gas, however, and that is reflected in the total U.S. electrical generation mix:

U.S. electricity generation by generating source

SourcePercentage of total generation
Natural gas40.5%

In that 18.2% of national generation that comes from renewable energy, hydropower and wind energy lead the way with 7.1% and 8.4% of generation respectively. Here’s how the U.S. renewable electricity generation mix plays out:

U.S. renewable electricity generation by generating source

SourcePercentage of total generation

Community solar on the grid

One (still relatively small) part of the 2.2% of electricity on the U.S. grid coming from solar energy is community solar – large, central solar power plants, whose electricity is shared by more than a single property. Community solar isn’t available in every state yet, but in the states that do have active projects, they offer an opportunity to save on your electric bills while supporting the addition of more solar to your local grid.

Interested in joining a community solar project? On the EnergySage Marketplace, you can compare solar farms in your area that are available for subscription. While community solar savings are generally lower than the savings you could see with a rooftop solar panel system, not everyone can install panels on their property. Especially for people who don’t own the home they live in (like renters), community solar is a great way to save money on electricity.

Get your electricity from solar and save

Whether you determine a rooftop solar panel system or a community solar subscription is right for you, both are effective ways to save money on your electric bills with renewable energy. In the case of community solar, you’re not necessarily getting the electrons from solar right to your house, but you are contributing to a larger percentage of the grid coming from solar. Get started with rooftop or community solar today to save!

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About Jacob Marsh

Jacob is a researcher and content writer at EnergySage, where he's an expert on current issues–and new technology!–in the solar industry. With a background in environmental and geological science, Jacob brings an analytical perspective and passion for conservation to help solar shoppers make the right energy choices for their wallet and the environment. Outside of EnergySage, you can find him playing Ultimate Frisbee or learning a new, obscure board game.

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