With the Ukraine crisis causing predictions of gas price hikes and the EU’s recent proposal for a strong and binding 2030 emissions reduction target, now is the time to consider switching to green energy suppliers. But are sustainable fuel sources reliable? And how do you choose between providers?
Let’s start with some myth-busting.
Firstly, green energy is no less reliable than conventional fuel sources. All our energy comes to us via the National Grid which has the responsibility to ensure we have a consistent supply. So even if the sun’s not shining and the wind’s not blowing, a green tariff will still keep your lights on. This means the electricity you’re actually using isn’t necessarily ‘green’: your eco-friendly provider buys the amount of sustainable energy its customers need and feeds that into the Grid where it gets mixed with other fuel types before coming to you. But the more businesses that go green, the more sustainable energy goes to the Grid; this makes it a greener mix overall, so you’re still doing your bit for our climate and you can measure your company’s carbon footprint accordingly.
Secondly, there’s no need to choose between price and principles: green energy doesn’t have to cost you more. Voted one of Ethical Consumer’s Best Buy green options, Good Energy’s dual tariff is cheaper than the standard tariffs offered by the ‘Big Six’ energy companies (excluding discounts for different payment methods). In fact, most of the specialist green energy companies have made price competitiveness core to their business models.
And green providers aren’t just reliable and cost-effective; they’re also being ranked top for customer satisfaction. Which? magazine recently surveyed customers on their experiences with energy companies, focusing on customer service, value for money, accuracy of bills, complaints procedures, and helping customers to improve energy efficiency. The Big Six all scored less than 50% whilst green specialists Ecotricity and Good Energy took joint first place with an impressive 82%.
So how do you choose a provider?
This partly depends on what matters most to your business. If keeping costs as low as possible is paramount, then consider opting for a fuel mix with some renewables but some conventional fuel too. Green Energy and Ovo both offer these options.
But if the aim is to radically shrink your company’s carbon footprint then choose a 100% renewable option like those from Cooperative Energy and Good Energy. All energy companies have to make an annual Fuel Mix Disclosure which you should be able to find on their websites. This provides a breakdown of how much renewable, coal, gas, nuclear or other fuel they’re buying in.
Using this coupled with price comparisons and Which? magazine’s satisfaction ranking should help you find the right fit.
But one word of caution: Ofgem now provides independent accreditation for green tariffs, ensuring that suppliers meet strict guidelines and are genuinely ‘green’. Whilst this is a helpful guide to what’s really climate-friendly and what’s not, there are good green options which aren’t currently signed up. Ecotricity is a case in point; supporting external renewable energy initiatives is a key criterion for Ofgem’s accreditation but because Ecotricity invests in its own projects instead, it’s ineligible for the scheme.
The UK’s specialist suppliers are at the vanguard of the green energy revolution and most of them are going the extra mile to achieve it. Good Energy is sponsoring a PhD at Birkbeck College on renewables, Ecotricity has an Ecobonds scheme helping to raise money for windmills, and Green Energy gives its customers free shares so they can attend its AGM and have a say on its policies and practices.
Most of these companies say that they want green energy to go mainstream. If this is what green energy looks like – clean, cost-effective, with high customer satisfaction ratings and impressive innovations – they stand a pretty good chance of success.
Emily Kenway works in the third sector promoting responsible practices by companies and investors. Prior to 2011, Emily was a professional opera singer before following her passion for sustainability into this new career. Her particular interests include the circular economy, environmental impacts, and the food industry.