Can I buy green electricity through the grid using a 'green tariff'?

Electrical socket

'Going green' is easy

It is now very easy to change your electricity supplier. Choosing a company that supports renewable energy generation, such as wind or solar power, means that when you pay your electricity bill, the money will not go to companies that are operating or building fossil-fuel power stations.

Signing up for a 'green tariff' is an easy way to supports the renewable energy industry, as changing your supplier won’t make any difference to the way that electricity comes into your home, or how you are billed.

Not as green as it may seem?

However, it is important to understand that the impact of 'green tariffs' on the overall share of renewables in the UK electricity grid is currently quite limited. This is due to the fact that under the government's Renewables Obligation (RO) all electricity providers are required to produce some electricity from renewable sources or pay a fine. So often the 'green tariffs' of large power companies simply sell the renewable electricity the power company is legally required to produce!

Furthermore, electricity providers who produce more renewable electricity than required by the RO are allowed to sell Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to power companies that don't generate enough of their own renewable electricity to fulfil their legal obligations. Say a 'green' electricity company A has most or all of its electricity from wind turbines whereas electricity company B produce all their electricity from coal and gas. To avoid paying fines, company B would have to build some wind turbines of their own - or buy excess certificates from 'green' company A. So by selling their RO certificates, 'green' power companies help other power companies get away with producing less renewable electricity than required by law.

This is not to say that 'green tariffs' are a bad idea. Using companies that only sell renewable electricity and that re-invest electricity bill payments only in building up more renewable electricity generation capacity gives a strong signal that there is demand for more renewable energy, and that people are not willing to support fossil-fuel power companies. Also, if enough people sign up for renewable energy tariffs then demand for renewable electricity will rise above the government requirements. Therefore, it is still a good idea to sign up for 'green electricity', and to encourage others to do the same.

The contacts below are for companies set up specifically to supply renewably-generated electricity to the public.

'Negawatts' are the greenest tariff

It is important to bear in mind that signing up to such a tariff is not a green light to use as much electricity as you like. Every means of generating electricity has some environmental impact, including the energy and materials that go into manufacture and installation, so energy efficiency measures are still paramount. See our Energy Conservation page for advice. Electricity saved, often called 'negawatts', is the greenest form of electricity!

Contacts

Ecotricity - http://www.ecotricity.co.uk - 08000 302 302
  Green electricity supplier that uses the money received from customers to build wind farms.
Good Energy - http://www.good-energy.co.uk - 0800 254 0004
  Provide green electricity tariffs: the electricity supplied is from wind, wave, small scale hydro and solar power.
Green Energy UK - http://www.greenenergy.uk.com - 0800 783 8851
  Offer green electricity tariffs that source either a proportion or 100% of your electricity supply from renewable energy.

Study at CAT: Our University Courses

Graduate School of the Environment - Sustainability Masters Courses

Have more questions? Get in touch!
use our form or call 01654 705989

Related questions


Related Books

Courses at CAT