Switching to a green supplier

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An interesting article (but potentially very confusing) from Jeremy Smith, a writer for the ecologist magazine about green energy tariffs.

UPDATE 4/12/06: It felt only right to obtain a response from Good Energy which got a bit of a bashing in the report. Interestingly, Good Energy are currently the only UK energy supplier who provides 100% renewable energy to it’s customers.

Green Electricity Are you being Conned.  Ecologist June 2005
Responses to claims in the above article

p.58, column 2, line 1
“…..Good Energy declared that it was committed to delivering 100 per cent renewable electricity to its customers.  Sounds good, but didn’t answer my question.  How could Good Energy be delivering on its commitment to me.”

Information on how Good Energy works and why we make the claims we do are all published in our material, including verification by an independent firm of Chartered Accountants, which are available on our website and all our team are fully briefed.

Any advertising material is passed through CAP before going to print and Trading Standards has recently cleared all the statements on our website.

We believe transparency is the key to the continued and sustained growth of the renewable electricity market and as a result are happy to, and proactive in, providing data to support all our claims.

p.58, column 2, second paragraph
“The reality is that switching to Good Energy has made absolutely no immediate difference to the source of electrons that powered my kettle.”

Electrons do not move from power station to customer, they vibrate as the current is AC or alternating current, so passing energy along the wires.  The important fact is when you pay your bills where your supplier buys their electricity from and so what type of electricity is being put into the grid.

The government has recently introduced a new piece of European legislation entitled Electricity Disclosure, a mechanism that means electricity suppliers must identify what source they have purchased their electricity from.

This will work on a similar basis to that described above, as it is all about linking demand to generation.

p.58, column 3, line 23
“This is impressive until you discover that a single jumbo jet flying from London to Miami and back everyday releases the climate change equivalent of 520,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.  One daily connection between Britain and Florida costs three giant wind farms…………..1.496 tonnes of carbon is what a jumbo emits in a flight lasting just less than eight miles.”

This does not compare like with like and more importantly seems to encourage people to do nothing.  It’s like voting ‘I’m only one voter and will make no difference’.

Transport emissions are a different matter, the fact is that the biggest source of CO2 emissions is power stations, accounting for around one third of the total, (Dti 2003), between 1990 and 2004, CO2 emissions from households rose by 12.5% due to continued burning of fossil fuels, total CO2 emissions from UK households account for 51 million tonnes. Therefore cutting household CO2 emissions would make a difference.

p.60, column 1, line 11
“…..misguided impression that somehow I had just absolved myself of all concerns about how much electricity I used.”

By using 100% renewable electricity one is absolved from worrying about how much electricity you use as you can be sure that what you are paying for is electricity from renewable sources.

It does not however absolve the journalist or anyone else from any other  activities and the impact their CO2 emissions have on the environment.

Signing up to renewable electricity is a step to reducing personal CO2 emissions. Once they have done this we find that people become much more aware of other ways their lifestyles impact on the environment and take other CO2 reducing actions as a result.  Top favourites amongst Good Energy customers are the books 500 Daily Ways to Save the Planet and Change the World for a Fiver.

p.60, column 1, paragraph 4
“Before 1989 the UK energy supply was centrally owned and in public hands……Companies such as Good Energy could buy already existing wind farms or hydro power stations and start selling 100% renewable electricity.”

In 1989 the electricity market was privatised. In 1998 the electricity market was liberalised.

Good Energy could not enter the UK supply market to deliver to homes until March 1999, so we entered the market in November 1999.

Deregulation was never meant to be a market instrument to introduce renewable power; the first market instrument was NFFO, which was the only support for new renewable generation in the UK in 1990.  However, it was not very efficient in providing significant growth.

It was not until 2002 with the introduction of the Renewables Obligation that the market has seen significant growth.  Since its introduction in April 2002 the total accredited capacity of renewable generation has doubled.  In April 2002 it was 1452.0MW by the beginning of February 2005 it was 2953.5MW. (dti 2005-6 review of the Renewables Obligation).

p.60, column 2, paragraph 2.
“Then again, if companies like Good Energy have been building turbines it’s not their fault that we haven’t cut our consumption.  But what if they haven’t?…….According to the site, Good Energy has not spent a single penny.”

Good Energy is a supply company not a development company. We work with developers and independent companies to facilitate new build.  We concentrate on building the demand for renewable electricity by increasing our customer base and therefore creating a market for generators and installers to develop new generation sites.  For example, we buy generation from CAT, Mackie’s and several other renewables sites all of which are new or re-powered build.

In essence we are concentrating on building a true renewables market that ultimately will survive without the RO.

By retiring ROCs and supporting 100% of our electricity supply with LECs Good Energy is putting approximately £35 per customer into the renewable energy market.  To provide a future sustainable market for renewable power independent of any government mechanism. We believe this is effectively the equivalent to an investment in the future of renewable power.

Monkton Group our parent company invests in the renewables market and, its
investment in Good Energy in 1999 was its first.  In 2002 it invested in Delabole, a wind farm in north Cornwall, which is managed by Monkton Generation.  Recognising the importance providing alternative means by which households can cut their CO2 emissions; the Monkton Group has recently made an investment in Powertech a solar thermal company, and will be delivering solar thermal to customers across the UK, hopefully by the end of 2005.

Monkton Generation is presently talking to several installation companies about new generation sites which we are unable to discuss at the moment.  In addition it has invested in Delabole wind farm to re-power some of the turbines and is now planning its full redevelopment.  Wind farms have a life span and without investment and redevelopment they will stop working.

Monkton Generation exists to ensure that Good Energy has enough renewable supply for its customers in the future.

Good Energy also provides a market and support mechanism for micro generators with our micro generation product, Home Generation.

Since 2004 Good Energy has taken on over 120 micro renewable generation sites and hope to significantly increase this support in 2005.

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4 Responses to “Switching to a green supplier”

  1. Duncan Says:

    Unfortunately, what is in the report actually conflicts with various other sites and all makes for very confusing analysis.

    On the independent Green Marketplace website, it describes Good Energy as:
    This is the most environmentally sound electricity supply available in the UK. All of the electricity sourced by Good Energy is from renewable energy projects and Good Energy also retains a proportion of the certificates used for the Government’s Renewables Obligation for their customers.

    But it also states that Ecotricity is to be recommended too.

    However here, Good Energy is slated. Although unfortunately this site is run by Ecotricity who, you guessed it came top in their own league table – this is the same site referred to in the ecologist report

    On the Good Energy website itself, their fuel mix disclosure looks impressive

    I just don’t always know what to believe!

  2. Jeff Bronks Says:

    As Duncan says, many of the reports out there are biased. The one I choose to believe is called “Reality or rhetoric? Green tariffs for domestic consumers”, which the National Consumer Council published earlier this month (Dec 2006). You can read it at http://www.ncc.org.uk/. It goes into a lot of detail, much of which I found depressing because even the best green supplier, despite their “100% renewable energy” marketing claim, could only guarantee to knock six per cent off my CO2 consumption. However, that was better than the zero percent achieved by my present “green” supplier.

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