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How to Buy Green Electricity

The majority of the energy produced in the UK is obtained by burning fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere thus contributing to the greenhouse gases and global warming. However, as increased pressure is put on finding renewable energy sources, the use of renewable and carbon-free electricity sources such as nuclear are on the increase.

In 2009, just 6.7% of electricity was produced by renewable sources or in a ‘green’ way, but this continues to increase as the Government strives towards their target of 30% by the year 2020. The increase seen over the past few years has come from various policies such as the Feed-In Tariff and the Renewables Obligation. These encourage and aid the growth in renewable energy expansion as well as reducing the amount of electricity that is used, allowing that energy which is produced by renewable sources to go much further.

But how can you start to use ‘green’ electricity before 2020? Well, most energy providers are offering tariffs that are labeled ‘green’; these are green supply tariffs and green funds.

What are Green Supply Tariffs?

This type of electricity tariff works by your energy supplier purchasing renewable energy that matches how much energy you use in the home, this can be just some of the energy you use or all of it. On your behalf, your energy supplier will be purchasing renewable forms of energy from sources such as hydroelectric power stations and wind farms. You can request information as to which sources have been included in the purchase made on your behalf and also what proportion of the supply you have received is renewable.

In a lot of cases the green tariff will state that the energy they are supplying to you is renewable but they will only be assigning you the compulsory amount of renewable energy that they are already required to supply you with. This will reduce the amount of renewable energy that they are providing to their other customers and will not increase the amount of renewable energy that is being circulated around the UK.

However, you could check to see if your supplier is one of those who guarantee that the renewable energy you want to purchase and they are buying on your behalf is extra to the amount that has to be produced by suppliers. This enables an increase in renewable energy generation as it provides customers and energy suppliers with an incentive to do so.

Currently, there are no energy suppliers that are offering a renewable energy supply of 100%. You will need to check with each individual supplier to see what their policies are for their green supply tariff.

What are Green Funds?

This type of fund allows you to carry on as normal with your energy supply but involves you paying a premium amount that will be used in the development of renewable energy sources. By being involved in these types of funds you could be helping to contribute to a greater mixture of energy sources in the near future.

These types of renewable energy generation projects may have also received some support from the government’s schemes.

How Efficient are Green Tariffs?

Each tariff with different providers will differ slightly, which is why it is important to shop around and to make sure you fully understand what is being sold in the green fund package. Here are a few things you should take into consideration:

  • Certified Green Energy Supply schemes do allow for some guaranteed benefits. However, once calculated, this could amount to as little as 50kg of carbon dioxide being saved per year, which is less than if you changed all your bulbs to energy-efficient ones, at just 2% of your overall electricity use.
  • By choosing a green tariff you will be providing the energy suppliers with an incentive to look for ways in which to generate renewable electricity and to increase energy efficiency, which would lead to schemes that will save carbon dioxide further down the line.
  • Just by choosing a green tariff doesn’t mean that all of the electricity you are buying is from a renewable source. You cannot assume that the electricity you are purchasing is carbon neutral or has zero carbon output.
  • Choosing to opt for a green tariff doesn’t mean you don’t have to be energy efficient too, as energy efficiency currently amounts to far more saved carbon dioxide emissions than opting for one of these tariffs. It is always recommended that you look at your current electricity consumption and look to ways in which you could be reducing the amount you use.

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