Monday, November 20, 2006

Switching to Green Electricity? It's a ROCky road...

I could say that one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to switch to a 'green electricity tariff'. Unfortunately it is not quite so simple...

There are two types of green tariff:

1. "Green Supply" - you purchase electricity which is guaranteed to come from a renewable source.

2. "Green Fund" - you pay a premium which is invested in building new renewable energy projects.

Straightforward so far?

However, every electricity generator is obliged to generate a certain amount from renewable sources (the Renewable Obligation). Last year this was 5.5% and it should go up to 15% by 2015. If a generator falls short of this, they have to buy certificates (called ROCs - short for Renewable Obligation Certificates) from someone who generates more than their obligation.

If you want a 'Green Supply' scheme, the trick is making sure you are not paying extra for electricity the companies should be generating anyway under the rules. Otherwise you are wasting your money.

This includes a 'green' generator selling ROCs to others as well as charging you the premium - because again this is double counting. According to Friends of the Earth the company should 'retire' (ie tear up) the ROCs on electricity sold under a green tariff, so the green energy you buy is always additional to what the industry should generate anyway.

Likewise with the 'Green Fund' schemes, you need to be sure that the investment is additional to the energy company's ordinary investment plans - otherwise you will just be contributing to their profits.


Fortunately the The Green Electricity Marketplace rates and ranks schemes in your area. They only recommend tariffs which go above and beyond their renewable obligation. There are other sites who can do the comparison, but they don't always make this clear.

As a result of researching this piece, I'm going to have to check out my own supplier, Juice, as they don't retire ROCs...


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