Switch your energy supplier to a green tariff
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to reduce our carbon use is to change our energy supplier or just switch the tariff we are on with our existing supplier to a green tariff.
What is green energy
The official term for green energy is renewable energy sources. It is renewable because it is collected from sources, such as wind and the sun’s rays, which are naturally replenishing. Unlike fossil fuels, such as coal, where once you’ve burnt it you have nothing but ash and carbon dioxide (not to mention other nasties, like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and toxic chemicals).
The main ‘renewables’ are wind power (on-shore and off-shore), solar power, wave and tidal, biomass, hydroelectric, and geothermal. Although nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide and is hailed as a green, low carbon lifeline by some scientists, the fact that it produces nuclear waste means it is not traditionally classed as ‘green’.
Buying your energy from a green energy supplier does not mean you will get all your energy from renewable sources. The National Grid electricity network connects all power stations, so your electricity will come from that pooled network.
You can buy ‘green gas’, also known as biomethane, which is made as a byproduct of anaerobic digestion plants and from landfill, and there is also syngas made from biofuels. Before you buy, make sure your provider is a member of the Green Gas Certification Scheme. Green gas is also mixed with normal ‘natural gas’ when you receive it, as with electricity from the National Grid.
As the UK does not produce enough green gas to supply all those who want it, most companies offer carbon offsetting as an alternative to green gas. Under these schemes you receive natural gas (that does emit carbon dioxide when burnt), but the company ‘offsets’ your carbon footprint by investing in projects that reduce will your carbon footprint in the future.
Choosing a green energy electricity tariff
With electricity from low carbon sources making up an ever larger percentage of our national grid, we are all likely to be using some sustainably generated electricity, whatever tariff we’re on. So what is the benefit of a green tariff in particular?
Choosing a green tariff shows the demand is there. It sends a message to your supplier and the wider industry that you wish to avoid electricity generated from fossil fuels. The increasing numbers of green tariffs available shows the industry is listening. This is a valuable contribution, whichever green tariff you choose.
A green tariff means that some or all of the electricity you buy is ‘matched’ by purchases of renewable energy that your energy supplier makes on your behalf. These could come from a variety of renewable energy sources such as wind farms and hydroelectric power stations. Some green supply tariffs are also nuclear-free. Your supplier should let you know what sources are included in the mix, and also what proportion of your supply is renewable. Some tariffs will be ‘100% renewable’, others will offer a percentage of the total.