Separating the green from the greenwash: how to navigate renewable energy tariffs

Green electricity tariffs are now extremely popular, however are people getting what they think theyve registered for? Heres how to sort fact from fiction

9 million British families are now on green tariffs, and over half of all brand-new electricity tariffs are identified 100 per cent renewable. Excellent news? Well, yes and no.

Some providers purchase filthy, fossil fuel power from the wholesale market and make use of a regulative loophole that allows them to identify it as green. This implies that theyre not really supporting the growth of renewables, and clients arent getting what they desired — a tariff that supports the UKs transition to a clean energy system.

While its favorable that a lot of individuals are keen to go green, not all tariffs identified eco-friendly are developed equivalent. The large bulk of tariffs marketed as green are absolutely nothing of the sort..

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” The public are always informed that one of the primary methods they can fight environment modification is by utilizing eco-friendly electrical power,” states Kit Dixon, policy and regulation supervisor at eco-friendly energy business Good Energy. “So the truth that a variety of incredibly popular providers using green tariffs dont actually buy sustainable power themselves is a reputational threat to the industry, and puts our ability to attain net absolutely no in jeopardy.”.

Great Energy has actually led calls for greater openness around green tariffs, just recently calling out Bulb Energy. If you desire to really understand the issue– and where things have gone wrong– where should you begin?

The first thing you require to know is that you cant simply connect your home or business to a different sustainable just electrical power grid. No matter what tariff youre on, your power will come from the nationwide grid, which is a mix of renewables (making up over 40 per cent of generation), plus gas, coal and nuclear power.

How green tariffs work.

The UKs national grid is fed by a mix of renewables, plus gas, coal and nuclear power. Image: Shane Rounce.

Ofgem, the UKs energy regulator, concerns REGOs to eco-friendly generators whenever they produce one megawatt hour of eco-friendly electricity. The plan is designed to supply openness on the part of electrical energy that suppliers source from eco-friendly generators. Heres the rub: REGOs can be purchased and sold separately from the real unit of power..

To offer a 100 percent renewables-powered tariff, suppliers need to supply the grid with at least as much renewable resource as their clients on green tariffs take in, either by creating it themselves or by participating in an agreement with a sustainable power generator. They can purchase an equivalent quantity of Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) certificates.

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Energy suppliers can also buy the European equivalent of a REGO, called a Guarantee of Origin (GoO) certificate. GoOs are similarly low value, so do not provide much support to the renewables market in Europe. Submitting GoOs to Ofgem enables suppliers to avoid paying into green aid schemes in the UK, which even more compounds the problem..

” REGO earnings is not going to make the distinction in between an eco-friendly power website getting constructed or not getting built,” states Dixon. “Its simply not substantial enough to tip the balance, whereas PPAs offer long-lasting security.”.

” The separation of certificates and power implies theres an opportunity for providers to purchase really, really low-cost proof of generation, for about ₤ 1.20 per customer each year, which permits them to call their tariff sustainable,” says Dixon. The monetary support the UKs eco-friendly energy generators receive through REGOs is so minimal, it wouldnt even cover an average solar farms hedge trimming expenses.

What you can do.

The UK government is preparing to tighten up the rules around greenwashing, which suggests change might be on the horizon.

Investment-based tariffs differ from certificate-based ones, as the energy supplier uses funds from consumer costs to purchase new sustainable generation sites, which is practical in supporting the UKs total renewables capacity. There are likewise investment-based tariffs that are 100 per cent backed by Purchase Power Agreements (PPAs), which offer direct, long-term support to the UKs renewable energy generators by buying both their power and the accompanying REGO certificates.

” If every green tariff was backed by 100 per cent sustainable energy through PPAs, that would offer a substantial volume of financial backing for renewable generators,” says Dixon. “It would be transformational for the whole market.”.

A supplier providing a green tariff can for that reason purchase power on the wholesale market that comes from a mix of sources– including nonrenewable fuel sources– and green it by acquiring enough REGOs to match their client base.

” If they hear their customers asking: how much eco-friendly power are you really purchasing?, thats most likely to drive behavioural change than anything else,” states Dixon

Currently, only eight tariffs are ranked gold by Uswitch: 7 from Good Energy and one from British Gas. Although thats a portion of all the green tariffs readily available today, the reality that the UK government is planning to tighten the guidelines around greenwashing means change might be on the horizon– and the advantages for renewable generators might be game changing.

Provided the problems with the way green tariffs are presently marketed, its not surprising that people in majority of British homes on such tariffs are puzzled about what they really indicate. How to get clearness about precisely what your provider offers? One method is to inquire.

Critics of certificate-backed 100 per cent renewable tariffs argue that this amounts to greenwashing, as these tariffs dont actually supply any significant support for the growth of renewables in the UK. Whats more, as there is no requirement for REGOs to travel with the power, a renewable generator could offer its electrical energy straight to a large company client– one operating a big center or factory, for instance– and sell the REGOs to an energy supplier offering green tariffs, allowing both to claim they bought the power..


” We make a pledge to our clients that for every single unit of electrical energy they use, we acquired a system of eco-friendly power directly from a sustainable generator,” he adds. “Therefore, they are offering, through their expenses, direct support to eco-friendly generators.”.

For every unit of electricity Good Energys clients use, they buy a system of sustainable power straight from an eco-friendly generator. Image: Gaelle Marcel.

Excellent Energy offers 100% renewable electricity produced from wind, water and sun.

Uswitchs new Green Accreditation scheme, led by a panel of independent experts, likewise ranks suppliers tariffs as bronze, gold or silver based upon the level of renewable resource they directly buy and the size of financial investment theyre making to support the development of green energy.

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Main image: Nicholas Doherty.

9 million British families are now on green tariffs, and over half of all brand-new electricity tariffs are identified 100 per cent renewable. Ofgem, the UKs energy regulator, concerns REGOs to renewable generators every time they produce one megawatt hour of eco-friendly electrical power. The scheme is developed to provide transparency on the part of electrical energy that suppliers source from eco-friendly generators. GoOs are similarly low worth, so dont supply much support to the renewables industry in Europe. Provided the issues with the method green tariffs are currently marketed, its not unexpected that people in more than half of British households on such tariffs are confused about what they actually imply.

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