Renewable energy: how to pick a genuinely green energy tariff
The provider you go with is a really important question, but actually quite a complicated one because there's a lot of confusion about suppliers/tariffs that are genuinely green, and those that are simply marketed as green (otherwise known as 'greenwashing'). Below is some context on this distinction and then a couple of recommendations for suppliers to look at. Ultimately, you'll need to look at the specific tariff you're offered and how it's composed to know if you're getting a green energy supply.
1. Firstly, it's not strictly possible to get your energy supply from the National Grid and for that supply to be 100% renewable. The only way to ensure that only 100% renewable energy is supplied to your business is to connect directly from a generator (e.g. install your own solar panels). This is because the various different energy sources (coal, gas, wind, solar etc.) are sent to the National Grid where the energy is 'mixed up' and distributed to households and businesses. It's this that leads to discussions/media coverage of the UK's energy mix. Currently about 30-40% of the UK's energy supply comes from renewable sources. In an ideal world that supply would be 100% renewable (or certainly much higher than currently).
2. The key to picking a green energy tariff is to go with one that is genuinely stimulating increased demand for renewable sources of energy so that there is more investment in renewable energy, more renewable energy produced, and a decrease in the need for fossil fuels to meet the UK's energy demands.
3. The problem comes from the fact that it's very easy (and perfectly legal) for an energy supplier to present their tariff as 'green' when it's doing nothing to stimulate demand for renewable energy. This is based on the existence of Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (known as REGOs), which verify renewable energy generation and can be traded between suppliers. It gets quite complicated, and we can provide more information, but essentially means that a supplier can buy these certificates very cheaply to present their tariff as 'green' when the underlying energy may be from fossil fuel/brown sources.
4. For a tariff to be genuinely green, it needs to be from a supplier that sources their energy directly from renewable generators (e.g. a UK wind farm) rather than just buying cheap REGO certificates. Even better if that supplier directly invests in new renewable energy generation themselves.
5. This also has an impact on cost, with genuinely green tariffs often costing more from necessary additional costs of sourcing renewable energy directly, so if you see a green tariff that is very cheap the odds are that it's not actually green at all. All of this means that you should look for a tariff that is backed by 100% renewable electricity rather than 'greenwashed' with the purchase of REGO certificates.
Recommendation: Now in terms of specific suppliers, we often suggest looking at Ecotricity and Good Energy, which regularly come out on top in terms of sustainability when ranked by independent sources such as 'Which?'. Then there are a host of other suppliers, such as Ovo Energy, Bulb, People's Energy and Green Energy UK. The bottom line though is that you'll need to look at the specific tariff as many suppliers will also have mixed/non-green tariffs.
Jack, Jacques & Jessie.