Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL
This action might take a little bit of research, but can be quite a powerful thing to do, as we describe below.
If you are the one paying for the electricity in your household or business, you will know that there is usually a choice of electricity companies you can use. Those companies will have various schemes on offer, for example fixed prices, or economy schemes based on the time you use power, and so on.
Many of these companies now offer the opportunity to switch to “eco” or “green” tariffs, where the electricity supplied is generated without the use of fossil fuels.
When customers sign up to these schemes the electricity companies have to ensure that the power they are generating (or buying in from other firms) comes from non-polluting sources such as solar, hydro, wind and tidal. Some schemes will include nuclear generated power because it does not use fossil fuel or generate greenhouse gases, others exclude it. This gives the consumer the choice.
So the action is to look at your existing electricity supplier and tariff and see if you can switch to a “green” scheme. If not, and if you are able to in your area and for your property, then change supplier so that you can access renewable energy.
We should acknowledge that the way electricity is distributed across national grids means that in reality the electricity you use is always going to be generated by the national mix of sources. However, switching to a green tariff brings consumer pressure to bear on that mix because your supplier must add sufficient renewable energy to the pool to match what you are using.
Advantages of a green tariff
- Green suppliers are building new infrastructure such as wind and solar farms
- This improves the overall generating mix and strengthens our energy security
- Consumer driven change will lead to more consumer driven change!
- Some green tariffs are cheaper than “normal” tariffs
- When enough people are signed up, green tariffs will become the “normal” tariffs!
- Many companies add other environmental or community benefits to their green tariffs, for example charitable donations, investment in green spaces, tree planting and so on (but take care to avoid being “greenwashed”)
- If you are acting as an individual household you will know you are doing your bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power generation
- If you are acting as a business, you will be genuinely enhancing your company’s environmental credentials and credibility.
Why it is important
Creating a market for renewable energy and building up pressure to change the generating mix is critical. We must reduce our dependency on fossil fuels if we are to control climate change; this affects us all.
Fossil fuel electricity generation still includes the burning of coal and oil in many countries, we must move to renewable energy as a norm. Even gas, although cleaner than oil and coal, is polluting and contributes massively to greenhouse gas emissions.
It is important that as consumers we make our voice heard. Not only does this action improve the overall generating mix in the countries in which green tariffs are available, it also adds consumer demand to the incentives for power generators – including state generators – to change.