MUSCOGEE COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) — Have you wondered how cleanly electricity is produced for the Muscogee County area? Perhaps you took a long, hot shower and felt a little guilty. We live next to a river, right? So surely we get clean, emissions-free energy from that?

The good news is that we do live near a series of hydroelectric dams, which are shown on this map provided by Georgia Power, a major electricity provider in Muscogee County. The map also shows a solar farm in the area of Fort Benning. But don’t get too excited. According to Georgia Power spokesperson John Kraft, an area doesn’t necessarily get all of its electricity from nearby sources.

“We maintain a power pool, for lack of a better term, where all of the power plants across the state put power into the system, and then it’s dispatched,” Kraft said, explaining that power goes where it’s needed.

In other words, a city or county with emission-free power plants could hypothetically receive electricity made from burning coal elsewhere.

But what if we could know that all of our energy was produced cleanly? Could we ethically use as much as we wanted? Kraft said that in this scenario, conserving energy would still be a good idea if only to prevent new power infrastructure from being built. And of course, it would save money on our power bills.

Considering that electricity in Georgia flows around in a shared system, you may be wondering how cleanly energy is produced in the state, overall.

Kraft shared a chart showing Georgia Power’s main electricity sources in 2021. Natural gas was the biggest producer at 47%.

As with coal, using natural gas as an energy source produces greenhouse gas emissions. But according to The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit organization aiming to use science to solve global problems, amounts of greenhouse gases emitted by the combustion of natural gas are much lower than they are for coal.

“Natural gas emits 50 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) when combusted in a new, efficient natural gas power plant compared with emissions from a typical new coal plant,” it says, citing a document from the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Next in Georgia Power’s chart, nuclear energy accounted for 24% of Georgia Power’s energy output in 2021.

Nuclear energy is controversial for a number of reasons, including the fact that it generates radioactive waste that has to be stored somewhere for much longer than we’ll be around. But the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy describes nuclear energy as clean and sustainable, saying it releases no emissions.

It explains that nuclear power plants make electricity by splitting uranium atoms. The heat released from this creates steam, which then spins a turbine, generating electricity.

Next in Georgia Power’s chart, coal was the third largest energy source in 2021 at 16%.

The burning of coal is known to release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Fortunately, Georgia Power has significantly reduced its dependence on coal. Kraft said that Georgia Power generated 67% of its energy from coal in 2007 and 2008.

Meanwhile, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind accounted for 6% of Georgia Power’s electricity generated in 2021. Hydroelectric sources accounted for 2%.

Null energy accounted for the remaining 5%. Kraft explained that Georgia Power bought this energy from third party sources that retained the renewable energy credits associated with the energy.

Want to support solar power? Georgia Power offers two programs, Community Solar and Simple Solar, to help you do this. Community Solar allows customers to get solar energy credits on their power bills based on solar farms’ production. With Simple Solar, a customer pays an additional $0.01 per kilowatt-hour to match 50% or 100% of their monthly energy usage with renewable energy credits. Click the links for more information.