Every year, millions of people ditch and switch energy supplier, either because they’ve found a cheaper deal or they have suffered a customer service nightmare.
Last week, British Gas and EDF both revealed price increases for those on a standard variable tariffs, which will hit millions of households.
This may prompt another wave of switchers who want to vote with their feet.
In recent times, a push towards being conscious about our impact on the environment has led some to switch to a green tariff.
Going green: Many households are becoming more environmentally conscious – and are turning to green energy tariffs
These green deals are rising in popularity, as people continue to hunt ways to help protect the planet, no matter how small that change may be.
One in five British energy customers are now with medium and small providers and some of these firms lead on renewable energy.
Last year 5.1million electricity customers and 4.1million gas customers switched supplier, the highest number in nearly a decade. More than a third switched away from one of the six large suppliers
Research from comparison website Compare the Market shows that three quarters of people are willing to spend more money for a provider which uses only renewable sources, over a provider that uses non-renewable sources.
But despite this, only a small percentage of households are with a green energy provider.
Below, This is Money explains what a green tariff is and debunk some of the common questions around going green.
What is green energy?
Smaller energy suppliers offering green tariffs promise to match all – or some – of the electricity a household uses with renewable energy.
Households still get the electricity from the National Grid meaning that depending on your tariff, your electricity may not be 100 per cent green.
This is because only around a quarter of electricity in the National Grid comes from renewable green sources, such as the sea, solar and wind. The rest is generated by burning fossil fuels or in nuclear power plants.
Wind farm: Renewable energy sources are increasing in prominence in Britain
In terms of the tariffs on offer, some are greener than others. By law, energy firms have to reveal the details of their fuel mix, so you can see if the electricity is 100 per cent renewable.
For example, one supplier, Tonik, says that all its tariffs have 100 per cent renewable electricity which is guaranteed through its filing of Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates from regulator Ofgem.
These provide a record of each unit of electricity members use from the grid, which it then replaces by buying (and pumping back into the grid) a unit generated from renewable sources.
It is also worth remembering that a green tariff still has an impact on the environment – but not at the same levels as a non-green tariff.
Some firms even show the overall carbon content of their electricity.
Furthermore, some of these green tariffs also do good as some of the profits are siphoned off for future renewable energy projects.
In terms of gas supply, it is extremely hard to get ‘green’ gas.
Some suppliers offer greener gas – but it usually only a very tiny part of the overall make-up of the fuel.
To make sure an energy provider has green credentials, Ofgem, the energy regulator have a Green Energy Certification Scheme.
Energy firms are voluntarily checked and audited to officially certify its service as green.
Which suppliers offer green tariffs?
There are a number of energy suppliers offering green tariffs.
As always, you must do your research to make sure the company is reputable and doesn’t have a number of negative reviews.
The cheapest tariff on the market is from a firm called Outfox the Market. Based on low consumption, the tariff is £791 per year.
Other companies that feature in the top ten compiled by Compare the Market include Bulb, Tonik, Pure Planet and People’s Energy.
Here’s the top deals currently available:
There are a number of established names in the world of green energy who have offered tariffs for a while which are not featured on the list.
These include Ecotricity, Good Energy and Ovo. Ecotricity supplies 100 per cent green electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers.
Ecotricity has a quarter stake in Good Energy, while Ovo – based in Bristol – has nearly 1million customers.
Some common questions answered…
Steven Day, co-founder of Pure Planet, says: ‘The switch to clean energy has been driven the desire to make the world more sustainable.
‘The typical household using gas generates nearly four tonnes of CO2 each year. That’s almost enough to fill a hot air balloon.
‘But renewable deals are also some of the best deals on the market too – with some deals as much as £300 cheaper than a Big Six tariff.
‘These savings come from the plummeting cost of producing clean energy in recent years.
‘But there are still many questions customers have when it comes to converting to renewables.’
These are some of the most common questions, according to Steven, when it comes to green energy:
What’s the difference between renewable energy and carbon energy?
Electricity is just electricity.
What matters is how that energy is generated — it’s what makes electricity ‘green’ or ‘dirty’. That’s the important bit.
Electricity created by harnessing the wind, or the rays of the sun, is renewable.
After you’ve taken into account the manufacture of a turbine or a solar panel, the power created by them is carbon free.
It’s called renewable energy because those resources will always be there, unlike coal and gas, which will run out and damage the planet every time we use them.
Some suppliers only buy electricity from these sources. Green suppliers don’t.
How do I know my electricity supply is renewable?
All suppliers buy power from the National Grid – the UK’s power network.
Picture the grid as a giant lake that we draw our drinking water from. The fresher, clean water fills the lake, the less dirty, polluted water there will be in it — and the purer the whole lake becomes.
Similarly, the fresher, clean power that goes into to the grid, the cleaner the whole grid becomes.
When you buy your power from a 100 per cent renewable supplier, you aren’t buying specially-minted green electrons that will be magically sent down the wires exclusively to your home.
What you are doing is buying clean, renewable-generated power that is being put into the grid on your behalf.
HAVE YOU GONE GREEN?
Have you switched to a green tariff? Let us know in the comments section below.
What about gas?
Carbon is an essential element of our planet.
However, when a fuel such as gas is burned it creates carbon dioxide that harms the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
Pure Planet offsets the carbon generated when you use gas by buying something called Certified Emissions Reductions on your behalf.
These are UN-certified credits support projects all over the world which reduce energy consumption, replace the use of dirty fuels and capture carbon already in the air, by planting trees and plants for example.
Is renewable energy reliable, what if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow? Will the lights will go out and my energy get cut off?
This is one of the biggest myths around renewables.
Renewable sources regularly make up more than a quarter of the UK’s energy supply and increased generation means that number is on the increase.
The National Grid ensures there is always a supply of energy available, renewables simply add to that supply and make the UK’s energy mix cleaner and better for the environment by doing so.
Does switching from a non-renewable to a renewable supplier involve changing pipes or a break in service?
Definitely not – nobody needs to visit. Even though you’re switching your supplier, you’re not actually switching the physical set up for the power to come through your sockets, or gas through your pipes.
It’s just about your account – how much you are being charged by your provider that changes, so there’s no need for an engineer to visit your home.
Do I need to contact my current supplier to tell them I’m switching?
No you don’t. Once a consumer decides to change energy supplier, the old and new provider work together to complete the switch on the consumer’s behalf.
You don’t need to contact your old supplier, your new supplier will do that for you, so there’s no need for any awkward conversation about why you’re leaving.
How long does the switch take?
Actually, you can sort it all out in seconds thanks to modern technology – and it’s really easy.
To switch suppliers all you need to do is supply a few details such as your postcode and email, and bank details if you’re paying with direct debit.
Many firms offer the choice of joining within minutes on an app or via the telephone.
If I switch, am I tied in to a long contract?
Every supplier has a 14 day cooling off period, during which you can let your new supplier know that you want to cancel.
Check if this can be done over the phone or needs to be in writing. The earliest a new supplier can start to provide your energy is 17 days after signing up with them – so the 14 day cooling-off period means that ‘switching back’ is easy.
In fact, you’ll never have left your original supplier – and there’s no risk of an interruption to your energy supply.
HIGHER BILLS EXPECTED
Household electricity bills could rise by a third by 2025 due to the increasing cost of green subsidies and wholesale prices, a report has predicts.
Green policy costs will account for more than a quarter of electricity bills and wholesale costs will increase by 30 per cent during this time.
The price rise will be driven by the increasing cost of low carbon subsidies, wholesale costs, and payments to low carbon technologies are expected to double to £15billion per year by 2025.
The subsidies are designed to help move energy consumption from polluting fossil fuel sources, to cleaner more sustainable options. They should in time also drive down bills over the longer term.
Moving towards more sustainable options will also in time protect households from dramatic fluctuations in fossil fuels, which move in part due to geopolitics.
Additionally, a Channel Four Dispatches programme which aired last night showed that acres of trees have been chopped down to create wood pellets that are shipped across the Atlantic to be burned in a British power station.
The idea is that power produced from what is called ‘biomass’ at the giant Drax power station, in North Yorkshire, is cleaner and greener than using coal.
But research by British academics claims wood pellets create more carbon emissions than dirty coal.