Where does my energy come from?

What's the source of my gas and electricity?

Have you ever wondered where your home’s electricity and gas come from? In today’s era of green electricity and fuel, the sources for your energy have diversified immensely. You may be getting your electricity from hydro plants, wind farms, a nuclear plant, traditional plants, or a combination of them, but how do you know? Due to the variety of electricity sources, it is difficult to find out exactly where you are receiving your electricity from. 

Where does my energy come from?

There are many sources of electricity in today’s world, so answering the question ‘where does electricity come from?’ is not always straightforward. According to Energy UK, fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal and other fuels produce about 54% of the UK’s electricity, about 21% comes from nuclear power plants, 24-30% comes from renewable sources such as wind, hydro, biomass or solar, and a small amount is imported from France, the Netherlands, and Ireland when prices are economical. These numbers are taken from a 2016 study, meaning that renewable sources are likely to become a greater percentage of UK energy in the future. However, the country is still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels as the major source of electricity.

How to find out where energy comes from

There is no easy way to find exactly where your energy comes from and it’s nearly impossible to truly know exactly where 100% of your electricity originates. Most energy and electricity providers have multiple types of power plants where they produce electricity. Once it is produced and converted to electricity as we know it, it is essentially mixed with electricity from the company’s other sources and is then distributed to customers.

In order to be transparent with customers, energy suppliers publish the composition of fuel mixes and the various sources of electricity they use and distribute to their customers online. These can differ from tariff to tariff so if you want a fully comprehensive view of where your electricity is coming from, your supplier’s website should be able to tell you.

Can I choose where my electricity comes from?

You can’t choose the source of electricity in the literal sense of picking and choosing exactly what types of power plants generate each kWh of electricity you receive. However, you can use the fuel mix details offered by energy companies to find one that best suits your needs. For example, OVO Energy’s fuel mix included 39% from renewable sources and 61% from natural gas sources. Meanwhile, British Gas’s fuel mix was 4% coal, 29% natural gases, 9% nuclear, 56% renewables and 2% other fuels. 

In this instance, OVO relied entirely on renewable sources and natural gas, while British Gas used a more diverse mix of electricity that included coal, natural gas, nuclear, renewables, and other fuels. Using this information, you can make a more informed decision on where you want to receive your electricity from, instead of blindly choosing a provider. It’s worth noting that some energy providers, such as Bulb, offer 100% renewable electricity.

The different types of power plants

Electricity is created in many ways. As technology advances, new and cleaner methods of electricity creation become more widespread. In the UK, sources of electricity include natural gases, coal, and renewable sources such as wind, hydro and solar and more, but what are power plants and what do they actually do?

Historically, coal power plants were the primary source of electricity and coal itself is the fastest shrinking source of energy throughout the UK. In order to generate electricity, coal is burnt and the energy that burning it generates is harnessed through giant furnaces. This energy source is a huge contributor to CO2 emissions, and as brands and customers alike try to move away from ‘dirty’ energy, only about five per cent of the UK’s electricity still comes from coal. 

Renewable energy comes in many forms and is becoming the most popular source of electricity. In the UK, wind power makes up most of the renewable energy harnessed. Wind farms are both offshore and onshore and are becoming less and less expensive as their popularity rises and technology advances. Along with wind power, hydroelectric power, energy harnessed from a fast-paced stream of water, is expected to rise in popularity.

Bio energy, which extracts energy from organic materials, is another source used in renewable electricity and gas. Because the extraction process often results in the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, bio energy is not as accepted as a source of renewable energy. Bio energy comes from wood burning, food waste and sewage, to name a few sources.

The natural gas and fossil fuels used in UK electricity, which make up the largest proportion of the UK’s energy consumption, is mostly produced in the UK or comes through underground pipelines from Europe. Electricity from natural gas is generated through the burning of the gases and harnessing the energy that they give off. While this type of production also gives off CO2 and other harmful emissions into the atmosphere, it is less damaging than coal.

Renewable energy providers

The current trend in the energy industry is finding new, innovative ways to become more environmentally conscious. Traditionally, the energy industry is one of the most damaging industries for the environment. 

If renewable energy is important to you, there is a new market share in the UK energy industry that is occupied by energy providers who emphasise environmentalism. Bulb Energy, Bristol Energy and OVO Energy are three of the top start-up energy providers, offering 100% renewable energy options to all of their customers. These plans use renewable sources of electricity such as wind farms, solar farms, and hydroelectric farms. 

Another movement in the renewable energy trend is the production of one’s own energy. Whether you have solar panels at your home or use a hydroelectric turbine in a stream or river, energy providers are offering to pay consumers if they produce their own electricity through the Feed-In Tariff program. 

How to pick your electricity provider

If the source of electricity is a leading factor when choosing a company for your energy needs, the best way to decide is by fuel mix charts. If you are unfazed by the use and production of coal power, then the traditional providers such as Scottish Power and British gas – reliable brands that have been in the energy industry for the longest time – may be a good choice. Meanwhile, for those who are worried about the environment and look for more environmentally conscious corporations and energy providers, then OVO Energy and Bulb Energy may be the best environmentally-conscious option. 

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Updated on Tue 28 Jan 2020 08.16 GMT

Published on Wed 23 Oct 2019 03.30 GMT