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Customers misled by green power claims  

Two of Australia’s biggest energy suppliers have been forced to stop advertising some of their “green” electricity products after investigations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found them to be misleading.

EnergyAustralia has agreed to write to about 30,000 people explaining its ClearAir and GreenFuture products, while Origin Energy has agreed to stop screening television ads that claimed switching to Origin GreenPower was the same as “not driving your car for two years”.

“For every kilowatt hour of electricity you buy, the same amount of electricity will be generated from 100 per cent renewable sources, and that’s guaranteed,” an EnergyAustralia advertisement claimed.

The commission announced yesterday that the company was sourcing the electricity from non-accredited renewable sources, meaning that money was not being invested in new wind, solar or hydro energy plants, as people may have been lead to believe.

“The contribution to renewable energy and consequent carbon imprint did not change, but they gave the impression that people were making a difference when they weren’t,” said Jeff Angel, the director of the Total Environment Centre, which brought the complaint before the commission.

Accredited green energy refers to new investment that increases the overall supply of renewable power. EnergyAustralia withdrew the ClearAir and GreenFuture products nine months ago but about 30,000 of its customers were affected.

“Our position is that if there’s any doubt about the marketing of our products then we will take action,” said an EnergyAustralia spokeswoman, Kylie Yates. “We no longer use any unaccredited products whatsoever.”

In compensation, about 7000 ClearAir customers will be signed up without additional charges for EnergyAustralia’s PureEnergy Premium program, which uses accredited renewable energy, for three months. The company said it would write to the affected people, contribute $100,000 to an information booklet and review its trade practices in the light of the ACCC investigation.

“It is well known that consumers are becoming more and more concerned about whether the products they buy have environmental benefits,” the chairman of the commission, Graeme Samuel, said in a statement.

The Origin Energy ads, which were screened in South Australia and Victoria, showed a spider nesting in the exhaust pipe of a disused car, illustrating the claim that signing up for Origin GreenPower was the equivalent of not driving for two years.

The ACCC found that the ads didn’t point out the difference between Origin’s 20 per cent GreenPower and 100 per cent GreenPower deals, and people may have signed up believing they were conserving much more power than they were.

Origin “promptly agreed” to take the ads off air and write to customers who signed up during the ad campaign, the ACCC said.

? From January 1, it will be mandatory for all water-using appliances, such as showerheads, dishwashers and washing machines, to carry labels rating water efficiency, the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, announced yesterday. The six-star system will apply to all new machines sold, with penalties in force for non-labelled appliances.

Ben Cubby, Environment Reporter

The Sydney Morning Herald

22 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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