Consumer Corner – Clean Energy

“Clean energy” is a phrase we hear a lot these days.  We also hear the words “sustainable energy,” “renewable energy,” and “green energy.”  The words are not always used in the same way, and there is plenty of overlap. 

So what they all mean?

“Sustainable energy” refers to those technologies and policies that do not deplete our natural and other resources over time. Energy efficiency and renewable energy technology have been referred to as the “twin pillars” of sustainable energy policies.*

“Energy efficiency” (EE) is a way to reduce our energy use.  This can be accomplished through installation of more efficient home and building equipment, appliances and insulation measures, and the adoption of building codes and appliances standards that require more efficient use of energy. EE programs and policies can slow down the growth in our energy use.

“Renewable energy” (or “green energy”) generally refers to energy technologies that are low-carbon or no-carbon, and therefore do not pollute the air or pollute less. These technologies typically reduce fossil fuel use and reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, and include solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuel technologies.  There is disagreement about the inclusion of nuclear and “clean coal” technologies in a list of clean energy technologies. Nuclear energy is “zero emission,” but produces contaminated waste, while “clean coal” still uses a fossil fuel.

The development and use of clean energy has multiple benefits:

  • Lower and more stable energy bills over the long term
  • Energy resources are more diverse and reliable
  • There will be fewer emissions and greenhouse gases
  • Better air quality means better health
  • Less reliance on global oil and natural gas resources contributes to greater security and independence

The focus of OPC is on the cost and reliability of natural gas and electricity for our consumers. We have supported the development of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources in Maryland because they will contribute to more reasonable and stable prices and greater reliability.

For other information:

*"The Twin Pillars of Sustainable Energy: Synergies between Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology and Policy" (Bill Prindle and Maggie Eldridge, ACEEE, May 2007).