Becoming more environmentally aware when it comes to choosing an energy provider should be at the top of our priorities, but when it comes down to it we are not willing to pay the extra prices. With so many tariffs to choose from is the whole thing just to expensive and too confusing? The short answer is no, and here’s why.

 

Switching to a green tariff should be top priority

Children’s author Susan Saville had written stories about renewable energy but was dragging her feet when it came to switching to it herself. “It was always on my ‘to do’ list but it kept dropping off at the end of the day,” she confesses. “Eventually, I had a word with myself and spent half a day researching the options on the Internet.”

As a result, Susan, who lives in West Sussex with her husband Richard and five-and-a-half-year-old daughter Lilu, signed up with specialist green energy supplier Ecotricity. “I like the fact that they are building wind turbines,” she says. “I feel I’m adding to the renewable energy infrastructure in the UK.”

But, like many people, Susan wasn’t keen to pay more. She opted for Ecotricity’s New Energy Tariff, which matches the price charged by a customer’s regional supplier, as long as they haven’t already switched to another company.

Green electricity is electricity generated from renewable-or natural-sources that give off zero or minimal carbon dioxide, the climate change baddie. These include wind, solar and tidal power-and even converting landfill gas to energy. Customers on a green tariff receive their electricity off the grid like anyone else. The key difference is that the supplier buys a specified amount from renewable sources.

 
Renewable energy in the UK

By the end of 2013 renewable energy made up for 17.6 per cent of the UK’s total energy mix, which is a record breaking number. In 2008 Reader’s Digest conducted a poll of Britons’ green behaviour showed that only seven per cent of us having signed up to a green tariff, which was a disappointing number, things sure have improved. But there are still a few of us reluctant to change our old tariffs. In 2013 we found 4 in 5 people wanting to use greener energy but being sceptical of providers. Yet it’s one of the easiest ways to make carbon savings, doesn’t affect lifestyle and will encourage power companies to invest in renewable forms of energy. By making one phone call and giving a meter reading, the average UK consumer stands to save 0.7 tons of carbon dioxide a year, a reduction of 5.6 per cent in your individual carbon footprint.

So why are consumers so slow to switch? “People are confused,” explains Patricia Ockenden of Energywatch. “There are so many green tariffs and people don’t really know what they’re getting. They’re also worried that it will cost them more.”

OK, let’s try to clarify things. There are now three types of green tariff:

  • A green source electricity supply tariff: all or part of the electricity supplied comes from renewable sources
  • A green energy fund tariff: the premium you pay goes into renewable energy or other environmental projects.
  • A carbon offset tariff: the supplier offsets the carbon dioxide emitted by the energy supply by planting trees or investing in other projects that reduce emissions.

A green tariff may include one or more of these elements, but bear in mind that suppliers are already legally obliged to provide a certain and increasing proportion of renewable electricity. A truly green tariff goes beyond this by investing in long-term projects like wind farms and hydroelectric plants. Comparison sites such as greenelectricity.org can help you find the best and later this year Ofgem, the gas and electricity regulator, plans to launch a new accreditation scheme, giving green suppliers ìenergy-efficiencyî-style ratings.

All the well-known names – British Gas, EDF Energy, npower, E.ON, Scottish and Southern Energy, and ScottishPower – offer green tariffs. But for a really eco-friendly deal, consider a small specialist supplier, such as Ecotricity, Good Energy or Green Energy. They offer a higher than average proportion of renewable electricity in their fuel mix-100 per cent in Good Energy’s case-and tend to invest more heavily for the future.

And once you have made the switch, expect to feel an uncharacteristic warm glow on receiving your bill.

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