Switching to a green energy tariff - be that a green option offered by one of the main six energy companies or energy through a specialist green energy company – is something we’re being encouraged to do now that it’s up to us to combat climate change. But how green is green when it comes to green energy? At present without any specific legislation or guidelines on what makes energy green, one tariff may be greener than another one.
If you’re thinking of switching to a green energy supplier, make sure you know the full facts before you decide which tariff to go for, as the last thing you want is for your environmental intentions to go to waste.
Which Green Supplier?
Every energy company now offers a green energy tariff, but in reality 'green' can mean different things. It can mean that your supplier sources – or even produces itself - electricity from purely renewable types of energy generation. This renewable electricity could be generated through wind power, solar energy or electricity produced from hydro-electric power.
Alternatively green energy can also mean a scheme that supplies an equivalent amount of energy into the national grid for the energy you use - often from fossil fuel driven generation. Others make contributions to eco-friendly community projects or renewable energy research – a so-called ‘green fund’ option.
Of course, all these energy tariffs are better than a traditional supply - but if possible, go for the energy derived solely from renewable sources, from energy companies actively involved in the renewable energy industry. Often the specialist green energy companies, such as Ecotricity and Good Energy, can offer this sort of 100% renewable electricity.
Electricity – Yes, Gas - No
Remember that while you may be subscribed to a green energy tariff, it’s not possible to source ‘green gas’ – green only refers to your electricity source. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, which emits CO2 into the atmosphere when burned, and therefore contributes towards climate change. You should always ensure that you minimise your gas usage in order to reduce CO2 emissions. Turn down the thermostat by a couple of degrees and turn off your gas central heating when you don’t need it on.
Energywatch, the consumer watchdog for the energy industry has already voiced its concern over the lack of clear information offered on green energy tariffs. According to Energywatch: “The information provided by suppliers about these different tariffs is not always transparent and consumers are unclear of the environmental benefits that they deliver, or indeed, how they add to the renewable energy that suppliers are obliged to supply by law. In addition, there is no scheme in place to verify suppliers’ claims about the environmental benefits or “greenness” of their tariffs.”
Tips on Choosing the Greenest Supplier
The message from Energywatch is clear. You should always research the energy market before you choose a supplier in order to get a good value and genuinely green tariff. Don’t just rely on the company spiel though – independent bodies such as Which? and Ethical Consumer magazine offer impartial and well researched information to help consumers decide.
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I would like to know if there are any energy grants/free schemes to help those of us who are single, working but cannot afford to pay for double glazing, solid wall insulation etc.
I have an 1928 flat within a detached building containing a ground and my first floor flat.The windows are very dilapidated and although I need double glazing I cannot afford to buy these.
I would be keen to know of any assistance I could get to help me with this.
Janette - 8-Apr-14 @ 4:44 PM
I would like to know if the local council or government have a scheme for low income families (disabled) who live in old listed houses that cost a lot to heat because of the lack of double glazing ,due to the listed housing laws. They will not allow double glazing but will insulate the roof and draft proof the doors and windows, what a joke, the cold comes in the cold single glazed window anyway.