Homes across the UK will soon be able to plug into community wind and solar farms from anywhere in the country with the first energy tariff to offer clean electricity solely from community projects.
As customers become increasingly eco-conscious more energy suppliers are ‘greenwashing’ the market in a race to demonstrate their sustainability credentials amid growing competition in the industry.
Co-Op energy is the first ever supplier to offer clean electricity exclusively from community projects. The new energy tariff will cost the homeowner £5 more per month than their regular tariff to provide electricity from community energy projects and gas which includes a carbon offset in the price.
The clean electricity for its new tariff will be sourced from 90 local renewable energy generation projects across the UK, including the Westmill wind and solar farms in Oxfordshire. Co-op energy, which is operated by Octopus Energy after it bought the business from the Midcounties Co-operative last year, plans to use all profits to reinvest in preserving existing community energy projects and building new ones.
Chief executive of Midcounties Co-operative, Phil Ponsonby, said that the tariff is the only one to be powered by 100% community-generated electricity in the UK and that it would ensure that community generators were paid a fair price too.
Phil Ponsonby said that customers on the Community Power tariff will be able to monitor the source of their electricity and “see exactly where it is being generated at small scale sites across the UK”.
He added that the wind and solar projects that generate power for the new tariff “plough the profits they make back into their neighbourhoods or into helping other similar projects get off the ground”.
Co-op which has approximately 300,000 customers has set itself apart from an ever-increasing number of energy supply deals that are marketed as being 100% renewable but are not as green as suppliers would lead customers to believe.
Consumer watchdog Which? found that many energy suppliers offering renewable energy tariffs did not generate renewable electricity themselves or have contracts to buy any renewable electricity directly from generators.
Instead, these ‘pale green’ suppliers exploit a technical loophole which allows them to buy cheap renewable energy certificates without in reality buying any renewable energy. The certificates are issued by Ofgem to renewable energy developers for each megawatt generated, but these can then be sold separately from the electricity at a bargain price.
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Which? cautions that these suppliers appear to be greenwashing their energy tariffs in order to potentially mislead their customers. The results of a survey conducted last year found that one in ten people believe that a renewables tariff means that the supplier generates at least some of its electricity from its own renewable energy projects.
Greg Jackson, the chief executive of Octopus Energy, said that it is ‘a massive jump in the right direction’ for customers to be able to buy locally-generated green energy.
“Investing in more local energy infrastructure and getting Britain’s homes run by the sun when it’s shining and the wind when it’s blowing can end our reliance on dirty fossil fuels sooner than we hoped. Local people investing in local people means that we can all muck in and put the work in to decarbonise where governments and large companies are slow to.”
Electricity from low carbon sources is now making up a larger percentage of our national Grid and it is likely that we are all using some sustainably generated electricity, whatever tariff we’re on. Currently electricity suppliers are obliged by government to buy some renewable electricity in the mix of sources.
Choosing a green tariff helps to send a message to your supplier and the wider industry that you wish to avoid electricity generated from fossil fuels. You can see from the growing numbers of green tariffs available that the industry is listening. You are making a valuable contribution, whichever green tariff you choose.
Your energy supplier should let you know where your energy comes from and what proportion of your supply is renewable.
However, it is recommended that you take a close look at how your supplier operates when it comes to putting together your green tariff. Some are definitely greener than others in terms of how much they support the renewables industry in the UK.
The hope is that genuinely green tariffs will grow in popularity and build up to a significant additional incentive which will help to accelerate decarbonisation.
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