Pizza and electricity. Two of this country’s favorites. While pizza originated in Italy, the U.S. is now the world’s number one consumer of those delectable pies. Americans are also huge consumers of electricity, ranking second only behind the Chinese and their nearly four times larger population.
Not every pizza is the same, just like not every kilowatt-hour of energy is produced the same. The types of “ingredients” used to create these two different, but very popular, American staples depend on how you slice and dice it. Let’s take a closer look at differentiating factors based on location, personal preference and cost.
Where you live makes a difference
The U.S. is home to approximately 70,000 pizzerias, while the total number of traditional electricity utility producers in this country is fewer than 1,000. Location of a pizza joint or power plant can make a difference in how the end product is made.
For example, most pizzas in France are topped with a fried egg, while the most popular topping of a German pizza is canned tuna. Yes, seriously. A Chicago-style pizza is notably different than a New York style or Midwestern pie.
A “one size fits all” type of power generation does not work in the U.S. Western states are rich in hydro generation because of available water while the Midwest relies more heavily on coal due to location of mines. The East coast and Southern states produce electricity using more natural gas and nuclear power. If a utility has a diverse generating resource mix, it is like making a supreme pizza. You have all the resources needed to create a special product.
In Nebraska, and particularly at NPPD, we are fortunate to rely on a variety of fuel sources to produce power. Having a diverse resource mix is beneficial because it helps even out price swings that can happen when focusing on only one available generation resource. At nearly 42 percent carbon-free today, NPPD’s power generation resources help contribute to Nebraska as a leader in low carbon emissions.
Coming in second behind hydropower-rich South Dakota, Nebraska’s total emissions are significantly lower than states like Colorado, Kansas and Iowa, all of which tout more wind-power generation than the Cornhusker State. That’s because we rely on non-carbon emitting sources, such as wind-powered generation, hydro, and nuclear power to generate electricity. We are also investigating other emission-free resource options.
How it’s made is a personal preference
According to statistics, more than 94 percent of the U.S. population eats pizza at least once a month. Of these individuals, 62 percent prefer meat toppings, while 38 percent prefer vegetable toppings. All of the combinations allow for many choices when cooking up this food favorite.
People may choose to eat pizza at their favorite restaurant, buy a frozen pie and cook it at home, or even bake their own homemade recipe. This is symbolic of how the electric utility industry is changing. In the past, nearly all electricity was produced by a traditional electric utility provider. But, in the past 10 to 20 years, we are seeing more rapid movement toward self-generation options. Business customers are installing and operating their own generating resources, while a number of residential customers are investing in solar, wind or fuel cell technology at their homes. As this momentum continues to shift, so will the traditional electric utility model.
More doesn’t always mean better
The average price of pizza in the U.S. is $13, while the average residential cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity in Nebraska is about a dime. This price ranks among the 15 lowest in the country and is lower than nearly all surrounding states.
While price is important to electric customers, so is reliability and the availability of electric energy generated from carbon-free resources. A recent article stated that America now ranks first in wind energy, even though China has 50 percent more wind generating capacity, or “iron in the ground,” than the U.S.
Because U.S. renewable energy development is driven by long-term electricity production delivered to the customer, versus a short-term fix, overall electricity production, in general, is more efficient. With 50 percent fewer wind farms or facilities than China, the U.S. is now generating 20 percent more electricity from wind due primarily to advanced technology, skilled developers and built-out infrastructure.
An important factor to understand about this statistic is that size and volume does not always mean quality. According to pizza.com, the world’s largest pizza ever made weighed more than 26,000 pounds and measured 122 ft. 8 in. in diameter. Despite its massive size, that’s about all it had going for it. The focus wasn’t on taste or quality, which could be found in a slice from a traditional or normal-sized pizza.
When it comes to energy policy and how we produce electricity, it’s critical we slice the issue more than one way. Looking at only one avenue or solution does not help us strike the balance needed to maintain a history of affordable and reliable electricity. With energy markets becoming increasingly more complex, we are focused on setting strategies and making decisions for our customers taking the whole picture into account.