Sunday, January 21, 2007

Carbon Week: Day 5 ~ Green Electricity Tariffs

One of the easiest and most cost effective measures to take in cutting one's carbon emissions is to switch to a renewable energy supplier. We all know this. I switched to Ecotricity nearly two years ago, and thought that by doing so all my electricity comes from renewable sources, hence I have not included it in my carbon emission calculation.

Seems I need to think again. Peter Hale of Climate Concern UK contacted me with his concerns that Ecotricity was not 100% from renewable sources. He drew my attention to the National Consumer Council's recent report on Green Tariffs which demonstrated that there is in fact only one supplier of 100% renewable energy in the UK:
Good Energy

Examining 9 energy companies (with a total of 12 green supply based tariffs) here are some of the NCC's key findings:
~ Many green tariffs are not delivering the environmental benefits they claim to.
~ Many suppliers are doing little more than meeting legal requirements (current legal obligation is to supply 6.7% from renewable sources).
~ Even the better tariffs on offer will only reduce CO2 emissions by around 100kg a year - just 6% of an average household's CO2 emissions.
~ Good Energy is the only supplier whose green tariff is based on 100% renewable electricity.

NCC calls for:
1.Benchmarking tariffs - a compulsory consumer code which suppliers are required to actively sign up;
2.Transparency - production by each supplier of a fuel mix disclosure chart for each tariff as well as a chart demonstrating the supplier's overall fuel mix;
3.Independent auditing - publically available and posted on supplier's websites;
4.Environmmental benefits -calculation of the amount of reduced CO2 emissions they will provide to each average household.

Here is what they have to say of the Ecotricity New Energy tariff:

It "is principally a green fund product (which means the supplier invests some of the premium consumers pay into new renewable energy or other environmental projects) with a green supply element (which means the supplier guarantees that the electricity it sells to customers is covered by the electricity it buys from renewable sources) of 25% of the electricity from renewable wind farms. The remaining 75% comes from coal, gas and nuclear sources."

The NCC report criticises Ecotricity for not making it clear on their website that new Energy tariff customers will not receive 100% renewable energy as part of the tariff. They go on to state: "Of the 25% of electricity from renewable sources, some of the 'greenness' is being sold three times. The supply aspect of the tariff is therefore not offering any additional benefits."

Good Energy in comparison:

"Good Energy offers a green supply tariff, with no green fund or carbon offset element. They support small independent, renewable generators by paying them a fixed price for their electricity.
Good Energy's green tariff is based on 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind farms, small hydro and solar power generators. Good Energy holds Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin in respect of this, and it retires out of the system all the associated Levy Exemption Certificates. This is good practise and means that the 'greenness' in the electricity is not being sold to consumers twice. Good Energy commissions an independent auditor to verify the contractual basis of it's green tariff."
(Ecotricity does not)

"Good Energy also buys and retires Renewables Obligations Certificates (ROCs) equivalent to 5% of their total supply over and above what is required by the Renewable Obligation. By doing this, it ensures that this electricity is clearly additional to its legal requirements, and is dedicated to Good Energy's customers."

The NCC concludes: "For those suppliers who want a green electricity supply, pure and simple, this is probably the closest they will get to it."

One little point was also highlighted in the report:
"The WhichGreen? comparison website is sponsored by Ecotricity, though this is not immediately obvious at the outset. Its recommendations need to be seen in that light." (It rates Good Energy as 6th, and places itself as Number 1!)

Why not change your supplier to Good Energy right now - I just did: it took me just two minutes to fill in online.

National Consumer Council Report Reality or Rhetoric: Green Tariffs for Domestic Consumers

[Top Photo: Wind, solar, small hydropower,geothermal resources. credit:]

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