October 27, 2006

Do green tariffs help the planet?

Thousands of us are signing up to plans from energy suppliers that promise to provide our energy from renewable sources.

But while green tariffs might ease our consciences, do they actually make any difference to the environment?

Under green tariffs, energy suppliers promise to match your electricity use by putting the same amount of energy from renewable sources ““ mostly wind farms ““ back into the national grid.

But environmental groups are not certain of the schemes’ green credentials. Friends of the Earth used to produce a league table of green tariffs, ranking them according to their benefit to the environment.

However, it has now ceased the exercise because it says it has become impossible to accurately gauge how much good the schemes do.

Jermana Canzi, a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth, said: ‘We are not saying that energy suppliers are lying to customers about where energy comes from, but there is not enough transparency and so it is difficult for us to recommend these tariffs.’

Environmentalists have concerns about recommending the schemes because suppliers are under obligation from the Government to produce a certain amount of renewable energy anyway.

Currently just under 5% of energy is produced from renewable resources and suppliers are under target. They must reach a target of 10% by 2010 and the Department of Trade and Industry is consulting on whether to increase this.

The amount of energy used by green tariff customers is still well below these obligations which means that suppliers don’t actually have to replace any more unsustainable energy with renewable energy when customers sign up.

Green tariffs mean that users are not contributing to the environmental damage caused by traditional coal power stations, but buying a green tariff from a major supplier will not reduce the amount of unsustainable energy being used.

The plans attract thousands of eco-minded customers. British Gas boasts 75,000 customers on its green tariff while npower claims 54,000 households are on its version. And they compete on price as well – where a premium is added, green tariffs are no more than a few per cent more expensive.

But for those selecting an energy provider on purely environmental grounds it might be greener to steer clear of the big companies and seek out a specialist, 100% renewable, energy supplier.

Ms Canzi added: ‘The most green thing to do is look for a company that only provides energy that has been taken from renewable sources. That way your money is not going to a company that still produces 95% of its energy from unsustainable sources.’

Good Energy is a niche energy supplier that only provides from renewable sources. Currently its prices are about 25% higher than standard tariffs from the big six suppliers.

By Ed Monk, This is Money


URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2006/10/27/do-green-tariffs-help-the-planet/