Renewable Energy Supply – an easy way to go green?
The UK’s energy industry is in the throes of a dramatic transition and it’s all down to three words: renewable energy supply.
In 1990, a whopping 75% of the UK’s electricity came from coal. Contrast that with 2019, when just 2.1% of it did and zero-carbon energy became the country’s largest power source for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.
2020 is likely to break even more records.
In 2019, energy industry leaders were purring that the country went ‘coal-free’ for 18 days between May and June: which was a remarkable achievement. But this seems paltry when compared with spring 2020, when we managed an astonishing 67 consecutive coal-free days.
With the recent closures of Aberthaw B and Fiddler’s Ferry power plants, we have just four coal stations in Britain. It is hard to imagine they will last much longer.
King Coal is not dead yet, but he is certainly in his dotage.
So, is that it?
Can we all now use as much electricity as we like as it’s all increasingly green anyway?
Nope. Because, as we explore in today’s coffee break chat video, we’ve still got to get rid of gas-fired electricity.
Combined cycle gas turbines used to be regarded as an enabler of the energy transition, because they were a lot cleaner than coal plants. But nowadays they are increasingly regarded as part of the problem.
Gas may be less carbon-intensive than coal but it is nowhere near as clean as renewables. So consumers can still play their part by actively choosing green energy.
Until recently, the only way you could buy renewable electricity was via expensive deals from pioneers like Good Energy.
Now, however, green energy is available from all sorts of suppliers – and competition is driving prices down.
But price is not everything. Because not all renewable energy deals are the same.
And that word ‘renewable’ turns out to be a lot more malleable than you might think.
At Don’t Do A Dodo, we’ve identified three shades of renewable energy in today’s marketplace: Dark, Medium and Light Green.
And we believe that, for most households and businesses, the Medium Greens offer the best mix of financial and carbon savings.
Let’s look at each one in more detail.
Dark Green Suppliers
Dark Green suppliers consistently generate enough renewable electricity themselves to match customer use.
Or they buy the equivalent directly from specific renewable generators, which is just as good. They also tend to take a strong line on ‘green gas’, some or all of which will be produced as biomethane.
- Examples are Ecotricity and Green Energy. The trouble is, their prices are so high, they recently had to seek special permission from regulator OFGEM to carry on selling their products.
- Dark Greens regularly exceed the so-called UK energy price cap and are not a serious option for most mainstream households and small businesses.
Medium Green Suppliers
Medium Green suppliers generate some renewable electricity themselves or buy it from a renewable source but tend to be less ambitious with gas, often using carbon offset schemes to make their supply ‘green’.
On the plus side, they don’t offer non-green tariffs alongside renewable ones (which, as we explain in the video, is a questionable practice) so you can be sure you’re stimulating the addition of more green energy on the nation’s network by buying Medium Green supply deals.
- Many Medium Greens aren’t just competitive on price, they’re amongst the keenest deals on the market, often undercutting the Big 6’s standard variable tariffs by hundreds of pounds.
- Good examples of these tariffs include Octopus Energy, Bulb Energy and Solo Energy.
Light Green suppliers
Light Green suppliers take a more indirect – and some would say questionable – approach.
They generate (or buy) both green and non-green power but, crucially, match their entire supply volume to Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) that they have acquired from another supplier.
We explain how this is done in our video but, essentially, energy suppliers can trade REGOs between each other, thus allowing non-green generation to be positioned as renewable.
- Shell Energy, who recently acquired First Utility, offers a good example of this kind of supply deal.
So, which should you buy?
In our opinion, Medium Green supply deals offer the best combination of carbon and money saving.
Companies like Octopus, Bulb and Solo Energy offer amazing value, great customer service scores with organisations like Which? magazine, and are making a real difference to helping green up Britain’s energy supply.
We strongly recommend you take a closer look at all three.