Green energy – also known as renewable energy – is now offered by most suppliers and is designed to reduce the environmental impact of your energy usage. 100% green electricity is the most common offering as it’s relatively easy to generate using wind and solar power; renewable gas is trickier to provide as its carbon footprint must be offset by other measures such as planting trees.
Green energy tariffs work in the same way as regular tariffs, so they’re easy to find, choose and switch to. Their key benefit is – of course – that they have a much smaller impact on the environment compared to normal tariffs. They do tend to be more expensive than normal tariffs but can work out cheaper in some circumstances, allowing you to save money at the same time as doing your bit to fight climate change.
Heypresto from TrustPilot sums up the experience of signing up to a green energy deal:
"When npower offered me a renewal tariff increased by £20 and I'd left it to the last minute, I moved to Bulb. I now have the warm glow that comes from using a green supplier and making a saving of £200 a year."
There are five principal types of green energy you should research before signing up to a deal:
Solar energy is harnessed from the sun’s rays using solar panels mounted on buildings or in fields, which is then converted into energy. It’s predominantly used by householders looking to generate power for their own home, while selling any excess energy back to the grid. Energy companies typically aim to generate large-scale renewable energy from other sources.
Wind power is generated by turbines and is an extremely popular option – it can generate electricity directly, or power hydroelectric dams that in turn generate the electricity.
Hydroelectric power uses water from a dam or reservoir to generate power via a water turbine and generator. It’s popular because running costs are low, the dammed water serves as a form of energy storage, and the amount of energy produced can be easily adjusted to meet demand.
Tidal power is a form of hydroelectric power that uses the twice-daily tidal currents to drive turbines that generate electricity. Although the amount generated by tidal flows vary according to the strength of the tides, it’s a dependable form of energy – and periods when tides are weaker are factored into generation estimates.
Biomass is a method of extracting natural gas as food, agricultural, and household waste breaks down, and is comparable to gases that come from fossil fuels. Biomass energy can be distributed via existing gas infrastructure, making it an attractive option should you want to sign up to a renewable gas tariff.
Green energy suppliers come in all shapes and sizes – from the big six energy suppliers to challenger energy providers – and the growing focus on climate change and the environment has been mirrored by a growth in the number of green tariffs available to customers. Some of the lesser-known companies are making a mark by positioning themselves as exclusively green energy suppliers, meaning that all their tariffs are based on green energy.
When you come to compare green energy suppliers, you’ll find the process is identical to performing a standard energy comparison. You’ll need to know how much energy you’re consuming and how much you’re currently paying for it – you’ll find this on your latest utility bill. As always, the more accurate your figures, the better the chances your chosen price comparison website finds deals that will save you money – if you’re not already on the cheapest deal of course. You’ll also be able to compare green energy plans using other criteria, such as billing options, exit fees and incentives, to help you find the best option.
There may be premium to pay for making the moral choice to purchase a green energy tariff. That’s simply because right now renewable energy costs more to generate, but as more consumers opt to reduce their impact on the environment, the greater the incentive for energy suppliers to switch to renewable methods of generation, which will bring the wholesale cost of green energy down.
The effects can already be felt: as green energy companies appear in increasing numbers on the market, renewable energy becomes more competitive in price terms, and there’s a chance when comparing energy prices you find a renewable deal that costs less than your current tariff. To find out if green energy is a practical route for you to take, compare green energy tariffs alongside ‘regular’ plans on a price comparison website.
To compare cheap green energy deals, go to a price comparison website and enter details about your current plan and usage into the system to find all the plans you could switch to. Use the filters offered to compare only green or renewable energy tariffs, which should allow you to quickly work out which green deal is best for your individual circumstances (and budget). You can then confirm your switch through the price comparison site and let your suppliers do the rest.