Energy suppliers offering environment-friendly tariffs are not always as green as they sound, experts say.
Many “100% renewable” electricity tariffs use energy generated by fossil fuels, which is then “offset” for a small price.
Sustainable energy think tank Regen complains of “loose language and loose marketing” around green energy tariffs. But industry body Energy UK says all renewable tariffs help to transform the grid for a low-carbon future.
The vast majority of energy suppliers now offer green tariffs and many promise 100% renewable electricity as standard. However, some energy companies accuse others of “greenwashing” – using marketing spin to make “dirty” electricity seem clean.
“The sale of green tariffs increased remarkably in the period since 2015. In fact, it doubled between 2017 and 2018,” says Rob Gross, the director of the UK Energy Research Centre.
For environmentally-conscious consumers, finding a truly “green” tariff is confusing.
Many suppliers have contracts to buy electricity directly from renewable electricity generators and some invest directly in renewable energy infrastructure. These are arguable “greener” but tend to cost more.
The regulator, Ofgem, acknowledged this when it exempted three suppliers from the UK-wide energy price cap.
Ecotricity, Good Energy, and Green Energy UK are allowed to charge more than their competitors because their electricity costs more to supply. Energy UK, the trade body representing all suppliers, says that the bigger picture is very promising.
Its chief executive, Emma Pinchbeck, says: “All renewable tariffs, including those with REGOs, are supporting renewables in some way. Over a third of our power now comes from renewables. “The reason we’re having this debate is everyone’s so enthused about a low-carbon world and that’s so exciting for us in the industry.”