How green are 'green' electricity tariffs - and how honest are energy suppliers about what you get for your money and and what the environmental benefits really are?We're often told that switching to a green tarriff is on of the simplest ways to cut carbon emissions from houses and workplaces.
But a study by the National Consumer Council shows that most green tariffs don't live up to the environmental benefits claimed.
The best ones are Good Energy and RSPB Energy from Scottish and Southern. Go there and switch now to reduce your carbon load on the planet!
But so only 1% of households have signed up to the renewable energy tarriffs - despite it being simple to do so - anybody can do it - reflecting the complex and confusing publicity and information from the utility companies.
So why don't they want you to join their schemes?
For instance, no supplier, whether 'green' or otherwise, makes it clear that every GB household is already supporting renewable electricity to the tune of £7 a year through their normal electricity bills (via the Renewables Obligation).
Also the complex rules that encourage all energy suppliers to source renewably can mean the electricity's 'greenness' is oversold (sold more than once). Even choosing a green tariff that offers to plant a tree would not contribute anywhere near enough to offset a household's carbon emissions.
Furthermore, good practice 'green supply' guidelines issued by the energy regulator Ofgem in 2002 are being patchily enforced.
The end result is that not enough NEW renewable energy is being installed.
Green Tarriffs examinedThere are three distinct types of green tariff:
- a green electricity supply tariff, where the supplier guarantees that the electricity it sells to customers is covered by the electricity it buys from renewable sources, backed by the necessary contractual evidence; <..li>
- a green energy fund tariff, where the supplier invests the premium consumers pay into new renewable energy, or other environemental projects
- a carbon offset tariff, where suppliers offer to offset the CO2 emitted by the consumers' electricity and gas supply – by planting trees or by investing in other CO2-reducing projects in the UK or in developing countries. These are becoming more common.
Many tariffs are a hybrid of two or more of these types.
There is a cost to suppliers for providing consumers with 'additional' environmental benefits. To reflect this, suppliers will usually charge a premium for their green tariffs over the standard credit tariff. Consumers may also forego certain discounts that other customers enjoy.
Some suppliers will guarantee to match any premium consumers are paying.
In general, green tariffs with premiums can be expected to offer greater environmental benefits than those without.
The table below shows whether tariffs are based on green supply, a green fund or carbon offset, or a combination of these. It also shows whether or not each tariff attracts a premium over and above the standard credit tariff. It sets out the contractual evidence suppliers use to back up the tariff. This evidence is in the form of certificates issued under the various government instruments explained on page four.
|Green supply||Green Fund||Carbon Offset||Premium rate?||Backed by Renewable Electricity Guarantee of Origin?||Backed by retired Levy Exemption Certificates?||Backed by Renewables Obligation Certificates? (Ie, over the regulatory minimum?|
|British Gas – Climate Aware||x||x||n/a|
|British Gas – Green Electricity||x||x||x|
|EBICo - Equiclimate||x||x||n/a|
|Ecotricity – New Energy||x||x||x|
|Ecotricity – Old Energy||x||x||x||x|
|EDF Energy – Climate Balance||x||x||x||n/a|
|EDF Energy – Green Tariff||x||x||x||x||x|
|Green Energy – UK 100||x||x||x||x|
|Green Energy – UK 10||x||x||x|
|Npower – Juice||x||x||x||x|
|Powergen – GreenPlan||x||x||x||x||x|
|Scottish and Southern Energy – Power 2||x||x||x|
|Scottish and Southern Energy – RSPB Energy||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Scottish Power – Green Energy Fund||x||x||x|
|Scottish Power – Green Energy H20||x||x|
>> NCC's report 'Reality or rhetoric? green tariffs for domestic consumers' is here
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