‘Green’ energy can be misleading.

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The National Consumer Council (NCC) recently published an investigation into the environmental credentials of green tariffs on offer in this country. NCC’s research shows that while many consumers say they’re happy to pay a premium for green energy, most green tariffs don’t live up to the environmental benefits claimed.

No supplier, whether ‘green’ or otherwise, makes it clear that every GB household is already supporting renewable electricity to the tune of £7 a year through their normal electricity bills. Also the complex rules that encourage all energy suppliers to source renewably can mean the electricity’s ‘greenness’ is oversold. Even the better tariffs would only cut the CO2 emissions of a typical household by around 6 per cent. The NCC is therefore calling for a shake up in how companies market and sell their green tariffs, and for them to offer bigger environmental benefits.

Only 1% of consumers are signed up to green energy tariffs. Dig a little deeper and you can see how maddeningly complex and confusing some of these products are. Energywatch has produced a factual guide that explains exactly what consumers are signing up to when they choose a green tariff.

Apparently it’s not Ofgem’s job to regulate claims by energy suppliers of the benefits of their ‘green’ energy tariffs. That’s for the no doubt over worked Trading Standards people.

Did any company come out ticking all the right boxes? Yes, according to the NCC one company and one company only……..Good Energy.

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6 Responses to ‘Green’ energy can be misleading.

  1. Pete Smith says:

    One of the problems with green tariffs is the bewildering range of options. The trouble with deregulation is that everyone starts chanting the ‘choice’ mantra. No-one can decide which is the best choice, and even if they do it may not stay the best choice for long, as other suppliers change their tariffs or introduce new ones. In the end people, me included I’m sorry to say, decide that the cash savings aren’t really enough to justify the time and effort of poring over the league tables. And once you jump on the bandwagon you have to stay on and keep comparing!

    It’s interesting that Friends of the Earth no longer publish a league table for green electricity tariffs. The official line is that this is the reponsibility of the government rather than NGOs, but I suspect they just couldn’t find the resources needed to keep up.

    http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/press_for_change/choose_green_energy/

    And I can’t find any obvious link on the Greenpeace site about switching to a green tariff either, so they may well have made the same decision. They used to promote Ecotricity, while FoE were in bed with Juice (or vice versa?).

  2. matt says:

    Think this survey was more about ‘truth’ with ‘green’ energy claims and just how much difference these companies are making to carbon reductions.

    I’m a little surprised Ecotricity didn’t get a special mention. ‘Juice’ or Npower, although part of a big company, do deserve a mention as well I believe. They financed the UK’s first large off-shore wind farm (off the north of Wales) after all.

  3. Pete Smith says:

    A man from Southern Energy knocked on my door the other day with the usual patter trying to persuade me to switch suppliers. I told him I was more interested in environmental issues than saving 9p on my annual bill. As soon as he heard that, he whipped out a folder and started spouting about how Southern Energy is the “biggest” supplier of green energy in the country. I tried to get rid of him by saying that I’d recently switched to Good Energy because they supply 100% electricity from sustainable sources. His response was “They’re lying to you mate, because we supply 54%”. Flicking to page 19 of his hymn book and pointing to a comparative table of green suppliers, there was no sign of Good Energy, Ecotricity or Juice. I pointed this out, and he reluctantly admitted he’d never heard of any of them. I wasn’t going to let him off easily, so I quizzed him about whether Southern Energy’s tariffs were for power generated from renewable sources, or just paid the money into a green fund for future investment in renewables or in carbon offset schemes. He hadn’t got a clue what I was on about.

    This just proves the point that the current range of tariffs is too large, the suppliers can exploit people’s uncertainty to persuade them to switch, and there’s no oversight body to keep them honest and give them an incentive to provide complete, accurate information on renewables.

  4. matt says:

    Arh, the wonders of the UK open market. That naughty little salesman. Bet he went on to sign up some poor ole little granny after that!

  5. John East says:

    Sadly, Good Energy have bloody awful customer service – I ended up reporting them to Energywatch after finding emails went unanswered and the phone was never answered and they call back days later when I was out. More competition is needed.

  6. matt says:

    Yes, I do remember hearing this regards Good Energy’s poor customer service. They appologized and promised to improve, if I remember correctly. That was several months ago now.

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