February 16, 2022 8 min read
There has never been a better time to switch to a sustainable energy supplier. As energy prices are climbing, and we are seeing suppliers failing and disappearing, many of us need to change where we get our electricity and gas. It’s the perfect moment to change our behaviour and choose to opt for green energy.
In this blog, we will help you to find the best green energy suppliers, look at what green energy is and how to choose the right energy company for you. By using renewable electricity, you can be sure you are doing the best for the environment.
Green energy, by definition, is the power that is generated by natural, renewable resources. It’s called renewable because it comes from sources like the wind, sun or the power of the tides, which are continually being renewed by nature, as opposed to fossil fuels like coal or oil, which will eventually run out.
It’s often also called clean energy because renewable electricity doesn’t produce the emissions that cause climate change. The main types of green energy are listed below. Still, combinations of existing technologies and exciting new renewable energy options are being developed all the time, and green energy in the UK is a fast-developing market.
Solar power works by converting the energy from the sun into power. There are two types of energy produced by the sun - electricity and heat. Both are generated through the use of solar panels. You’ve probably seen these on residential rooftops, but it’s becoming more common now to see ‘solar farms', where many panels are stretched out over areas of rural land.
Geothermal power works by capturing the heat that comes from deep within the earth. This heat can generate electricity by heating water into steam, which drives turbines that then produce energy. Currently, there are no geothermal plants in the UK.
Biomass is a fuel that is developed for organic materials, like scrap lumber, forest debris, unused crops or manure. These organic waste materials can be burned to create energy and electricity. With a constant supply of waste from industries and farming, biomass is seen as a renewable and sustainable form of energy.
Green gas is a newer form of renewable energy that has become available more recently. It’s most commonly sourced from biomass and anaerobic digesters.
Anaerobic digestion is when organic matter such as animal or food waste is broken down to produce biogas and biofertiliser. This process happens when there is no oxygen in a sealed, oxygen-free tank called an anaerobic digester.
As mentioned above, the green gas produced is a by-product of waste from other sources, so there is currently an unlimited supply of biomaterials to use in the process.
Currently, it's challenging to produce and gather this gas in high quantities, which means that many green energy suppliers commit to providing just a proportion of their gas supply from this source. Some 100% green gas tariffs are available, but they are expensive.
Wind energy can be created and harnessed by using wind turbines - tall, tubular towers with blades rotating at the top. When the wind turns the blades, the blades turn a generator and produce electricity.
The UK is the world leader in offshore wind energy, with more installed capacity than any other country. These wind farms already power the equivalent of 4.5 million homes annually and generate about 10% of the electricity we use here.
Hydroelectric power is the energy generated by flowing water. As all streams and rivers flow downhill, there is a potential energy at the top because of the height. Hydropower systems convert this potential energy into a turbine, which drives a generator to produce electricity. Natural or man-made installations can be used; for instance, we can use water that flows from a high-level reservoir, through a tunnel, into a dam.
Tidal power also comes under the heading of hydropower, where underwater turbines harness the energy made by the rising and falling tides. However, these tidal farms can spell trouble for the marine environment and are of great concern, along with the massive cost of construction.
Home energy is an area where we, as consumers, can play a huge and vital role - cutting our own energy use and supporting the companies and technologies offering green energy from renewable sources and choosing not to use fossil fuels.
To find the best green energy supplier in the UK, you simply need to do a little research. A large and growing number of energy companies claim to be green, and many large suppliers are offering ‘green tariffs’.
But, as there is no set definition of what ‘green’ means, it’s really worth taking a deeper dive into looking at the company you are choosing to ensure you’re getting what you expected.
Some firms go to great lengths to invest in the technology needed to clean up the grid, generate renewable electricity, or buy it from renewable generators. While others do the minimum required to label their tariffs ‘green’.
Here are some things to look for when comparing green energy suppliers:
Since there is no set definition of a green or renewable energy tariff, decide what’s important to you. Do you want a vegan energy supplier? Do you want the supplier to be completely free from fossil fuel usage? Do you want the company itself to have sustainable practises?
Check if the company says it owns renewable generation, like wind or solar farms. Do they buy power from other generators? Is there a clear explanation of how the company proves that the electricity it sells is 100% renewable? Does the company have direct links to fossil fuels? Some companies generate renewable power and own gas power stations or use their profits to invest in oil. An excellent green energy supplier will be transparent about where the power they are selling you comes from and where they invest their profits.
This is an easy way to tell if the company you choose aligns with your expectations of what a green supplier is. If the company is certified by The Vegan Society or B Corp, then you can be sure they have sustainable accreditation.
If the supplier encourages you to have sustainable behaviour, it’s another indicator that they have good eco-credentials. Offering smart metres or thermostats or time of use tariffs shows that the supplier cares about you reducing the amount of energy you use and not just wanting to take your money!
Does the supplier you are considering show their care for the environment in other ways, like making charitable donations, participating in community or charity energy programmes, or carbon reduction projects like tree planting? These are all signs that you are dealing with an ethical company.
For every 1000 units of renewable electricity generated, the industry regulator OFGEM gives the generator one ‘green’ certificate. This is called a Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificate (REGO), which certifies the energy as being green.
When any supplier buys power from the renewable generator in order to sell to its customers, it also buys the REGO certificates at a cost of about 15p each.
However, the market for these certificates is completely separate from the market for buying power, which means any supplier can buy as many of these certificates as they like without actually buying renewable energy.
This means a supplier can claim to be selling green energy, offering green energy tariffs, without ever actually having spoken to a single renewable generator! This is yet another form of ‘green-washing’.
When researching the company you are thinking of buying your energy from, look beyond the fact that it might be the cheapest, to the supplier’s other credentials. Don’t be swayed by environmentally friendly images, designs and phrases if they’re not backed up with factual information of how and where they get their power.
Check if the supplier you are researching is invested in building new sources of green energy. Look for a green energy company that is actively building renewable capacity.
You should also consider the supplier's long-term viability. You may be concerned that a smaller company is less reliable – and the fact that many have gone out of business in the last 18 months won't help – but it's important to remember that even if your provider goes out of business, your supply won't be disrupted; you'll simply be switched to a different provider.
According to customer satisfaction polls, smaller providers provide better service and have happier consumers.
Once you've decided to switch to renewable energy, you'll have a few options to choose from. Some companies specialise in providing renewable energy, while others provide green tariffs and plans, but here are the best renewable energy suppliers in the UK:
Ecotricity is one of the UK's oldest renewable energy providers. It's also one of the most environmentally friendly because it Invests in and collaborates with renewable energy generators.
They also offer green gas services, as well as 100 per cent renewable electricity generated in the UK.
The Vegan Society recognises Ecotricity as the only vegan energy provider in the UK. Ecotricity closely checks its ‘vegan energy' supply to ensure that no animal waste, such as slurry or manure, is used to generate gas in aerobic digesters or biomass.
As one of the cleanest energy suppliers in the UK, Good Energy is on par with Ecotricity. They have a strong emphasis on the local supply chain and work directly with, and invest in, renewable energy generators.
Good Energy ensures that the generators they use are paid fairly and that emissions are decreased.
They also offer a green gas supply, and 100 per cent renewable electricity generated in the UK.
Good Energy and Ecotricity are slightly more expensive, but they are considered the greenest, most ethical suppliers to switch to because they seek to enhance the UK's renewable energy-producing capacity. Both companies exclusively sell tariffs backed by 100 per cent renewable energy and provide a proportion of "green gas" (from biomethane). Ecotricity funds new renewable generation with money from its customers' bills. Meanwhile, Green Energy UK sells 100% green gas, and Good Energy buys power from over 1,600 independent renewable providers.
Other energy suppliers selling only tariffs with 100% renewable electricity include Eon, Octopus Energy, Ovo Energy and So Energy.
Eon is one of the largest energy companies in the UK and says it aims to lead the global shift towards new technology and being more sustainable. It sells solar panels and home batteries, and it is installing electric vehicle charging points across the country.
Octopus is currently owned by Octopus Investments, and is the UK’s largest investor in solar energy.
So Energy is a small company that sells only 100% renewable electricity tariffs and gives customers a say in where it sources the electricity from - you can use an online poll to vote for wind, solar, hydro or biomass on So Energy's website.
We need to urgently address our energy future to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Switching to renewable energy needn’t be difficult and there are currently around 30 companies offering green and renewable energy supplies in the UK.
By deciding what is important to you in a green energy supplier and doing some research about the issues that you care about, we’re sure that you’ll be able to find a green energy company or tariff that suits your needs - and your wallet.
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