For some people, what they pay for their energy is all that’s important. However, a recent study has shown that the majority of the UK population does more than just compare electricity prices – they also want to know where their power is coming from and how it’s generated.

The report, undertaken by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-of-energy-climate-change) says that 76% of us support the increased use of sustainable power sources, even though we expect to pay more for it.Green energy tariffs

There is, however, a great deal of confusion over what constitutes renewable electricity. You’ll find some kind of “green” tariff now available from just about every supplier, big or small, but the government demands energy companies produce a certain proportion of their electricity using sustainable methods so they actually have little choice. There are also questions about the validity of some green power claims, given that  “certificates trading” means that a company can sell over-production of renewables to another that hasn’t hit it’s quota.

Comparing Like With Like?

So when you compare electricity providers, how do you actually know what you’re getting? The straight answer is that it can often be very difficult to find out. It’s not helped by the different names given to the tariffs.

  • Carbon Offset tariff means that the electricity company has “bought” the emissions relative to your use, normally by investing in renewable projects elsewhere – planting trees maybe. It doesn’t mean they actually used any kind of green generation methods. Is that a bad thing? Perhaps not in the overall picture, but it does nothing to directly develop the sector.
  • A Green Supply tariff does ensure that a portion of your electricity usage is generated from renewable sources, but again, these quantities can be traded between companies who have an under- and over-supply. It’s not the case with all companies, but if it’s an area that concerns you it’s something you will want to check.
  • A third tariff is called Green Fund and, as the name suggests, the energy company must spend a portion of the income they get from you on renewable power projects. Some have suggested that in order to comply with the government’s “Renewables Obligation”, companies have little choice than to invest anyway. That may be true, but at least you know where your money is going when you pay your bill.

Greener Than Government “Green”

There are, of course, companies that go beyond what’s required by legislation.

  • Ecotricity, the first renewable energy supplier in the UK, offers 100% green electricity. They’re a major investor in wind turbines. Some of their provision is done through renewables trading but they do generate 67.5% themselves, which is around six times the national average.
  • Good Energy are another 100% renewables electricity supplier – and they generate it all themselves using wind, solar, biogen and hydro. They’re also keen to point out they use no nuclear power.
  • Green Energy are another that likes to point out their nuclear-free credentials and 100% green supply – but around 80% of that supply is done through offset trading rather than actual production. They still generate twice the national average from renewables and have a variety of tariffs to choose from.
  • LoCO2 Energy is a retailer, rather than generator, but they do support green initiatives and 46% of their power supply does come from green sources. Once again nuclear-free, their 100% green tariff is also provided using offset trades as part of the mix.
  • Ovo New Energy (also Woodlands Trust Energy) is another 100% green electricity supplier, but again, it’s largely through offset trading.Going Green : Green energy suppliers

Who Is Truly Green?

By now you’ll have gathered that when you compare electricity companies’ claims to be 100% green that doesn’t mean they generate all their supply from renewable sources – or that they even generate electricity at all.

That’s not to suggest that any of them are dong anything wrong, or that you should avoid any one of them. Providing 100% of the nations electricity from renewable sources is, as yet, a dream. In practical terms we’ll be reliant on coal, oil and nuclear fuels for decades. You don’t invest 14 billion in a new reactor at Hinckley Point in Somerset on a whim (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-21774652).

But although you can’t change the countries energy supply overnight, you can make a difference. You can, as an individual, choose a company that either generates 100% of it’s provision using sustainable sources, or re-invests what you pay them in other renewable or environmentally friendly projects. You’ll pay a little extra for the privilege, but it’s nice to have the choice.

Sam Jones, the author, has been comparing electricity from green suppliers to try and find a more sustainable and cheaper company. 

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