With estimates varying from around 41 to 47% of total production, the proportion of electricity from renewable sources in the UK has started to outstrip that from fossil fuels. We all want to play a part in reducing the amount of the greenhouse gas CO2 that is emitted each year in the UK in order to achieve the Government’s aim of 68% reduction from 1990 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. One of the ways we can do this is by strengthening this trend away from generating electricity from fossil fuels by switching to so-called ‘Green Tariffs’ thereby encouraging the generation of electricity by Wind, Solar, Hydroelectricity and Biofuels.
Of course, you realise by doing this the renewable power is not being supplied directly to your home – your electricity is the same as that of your neighbour who may be on a conventional tariff – you are both connected to the national grid. What you may be able to influence is the source of the electricity that is fed into the grid. There is a myriad of green tariffs being offered by energy companies but not all of the energy companies support renewable generation directly.
The renewable energy market is regulated by a system run by Ofgem in which certificates – Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) – are issued to generators for every Megawatt of renewable energy produced and delivered to the grid. The intention is that a supplier buys the electricity from the generator and may receive the appropriate number of REGOs to prove to Ofgem the source of electricity supplied is green.
However, some buyers do not take the REGO which leads to a surplus of certificates. It is permitted for a supplier to purchase REGOs separately without the accompanying electricity. The electricity may then be bought more cheaply on the open market from fossil sources but be made to look ‘green’ by the production of the REGO. This is known as greenwashing. Sure the REGO ‘matches’ some renewable electricity that has been fed into the grid, but it has already been sold; this approach does not encourage building new sources of green energy. Ofgem is currently examining ways of reforming this system.
It can be quite daunting to separate green tariffs that are actually backed by suppliers buying directly from Renewable energy generators and those that are merely legitimised by using detached REGOs. I faced this issue when I began to suspect that my green tariff supplier was a greenwasher. There are a number of helpful websites such as;
and this article from Which?
There are some energy suppliers that generate their own renewable electricity e.g. Good Energy and others who generate some and deliver the rest by genuinely buying directly from renewable generators e.g. Octopus. Those that generate their own are often more expensive. I decided that I wanted to support local community renewable energy initiatives so I switched to the Co-operative Community Power tariff managed by Octopus which buys energy directly from such schemes.
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