Buying green electricity is one of the easiest actions you can take to reduce your contribution to climate change. Yet, to my surprise, even though I thought I’d been on a green tariff since signing up to one online over a year ago, I discovered from a recent bill that I wasn’t.
A good opportunity then to find out first hand how one goes about switching from a supplier that buys from fossil fuel sources to one that doesn’t.
Using Google to search for green electricity, I visited several websites to mug up on what is available.
Greenprices is an excellent, independent website for green energy in Europe, which has details of the different green electricity products available in Britain.
Green Electricity Marketplace is another very good site that provides a helpful review of the different tariffs available (in different regions) including an assessment of how green they really are.
By switching to green electricity, you are enacting consumer power by signaling that you support electricity companies investing more in renewable energy technologies. But how Green is Green electricity?
Green electricity is a term for electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind, water, solar and energy-from-waste and not from burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Yet it is impossible to ensure that the electricity flowing down a cable to your home is 'green', since all electricity, however generated, is pooled in the electricity network, known as the national grid.
What characterizes your power as “green” is whether the electricity supplier ensures that for every unit of electricity you use, the same amount of renewable energy is generated and put into the grid.
Another way to support the greening of your power supply is to buy from a supplier who puts some of the money received from you into a fund for investment in future renewable energy schemes.
Some products (e.g. RSPB Energy) are both a green supply and a green fund. An independent organisation developed by the Energy Saving Trust called 'Future Energy', verifies whether the amount of electricity sold as green energy really comes from renewable energy sources.
After mugging up on all this, I decided to switch to http://www.goodenergy.co.uk”
>Good Energy, a company which buys electricity exclusively from renewable energy generators. This was recommended by Friends of the Earth. I phoned Good Energy, had everything explained clearly while they filled in my application, and discovered a way to pay (a yearly direct debit) which made the bill cheaper (£470 per annum) than I am currently paying!! I intend to get this figure down even further when we get our wind turbine but that’s another story.
In three weeks time (July 7th 2005 )our home energy use will be contributing to a wider social movement to reduce carbon emissions. It is not without some cost to the climate because there is still embodied energy used during the development, production and maintenance of renewable energy facilities. It is also not without other environmental
impacts. Large scale hydropower has an impact on habitat and biodiversity, large wind farms are believed to be unsightly by some, and waste to energy plants still need to persuade people that their by-products are harmless and that they are sustainable. These are good reasons for further exploration of microgeneration. (Watch this space)
Thinking of the context nationally, the Government intends to create a £1 billion market for renewable energy by 2010. The main driver for this is the Renewables Obligations, effective from January 2002, which requires electricity suppliers to purchase a portion of the electricity they deliver to their customers from renewable sources. The level of the obligation started at 3% and is gradually increasing so that in 2010, 10% of the sales from all electricity suppliers should come from renewable energy sources.