Were you sobered and alarmed by the report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October, the one that warned the world has only 12 years to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5C to avoid catastrophic flooding, droughts, hunger, and possible societal collapse and extinction? Maybe you’ve felt a sense of mounting futility about the world’s addiction to fossil fuels and our ability to change our energy consumption habits before this 2030 deadline for Armageddon. Maybe you’ve considered changing your own habits—giving up meat, avoiding long-haul flights—but felt it’s too little too late.
While it’s true stopping global warming before catastrophe will require political force, popular will, and the cooperation, or regulation, of large polluting companies (just 100 of which are responsible for 71% of global emissions), changes you make at home can deliver an impact, if enough of us make them. According to the Committee on Climate Change, 40% of UK emissions come from households. At the very least, these changes will make you feel better about your contribution to climate change—and possibly save you money too.
Switching to a tariff from a green energy provider can be one of the most impactful changes you can make at home. 29% of these household emissions come from heating our homes and 21% from the electricity we use. Low carbon generation of electricity could cut the amount of CO2 each household contributes to the atmosphere by 1.25 tonnes each year.
Switching to green energy tariff won’t merely reduce your individual carbon footprint. It helps providers of green energy grow their businesses and invest in more clean energy infrastructure, improving their ability to provide affordable, clean energy to your neighbours and beyond.
Green Energy Providers in the UK
Overall, 31.7% of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable resources and while green gas remains more limited, the Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS) had sold 1TWh of renewable gas—enough to fuel 83,000 homes for a year. Due to the way energy is pooled in the National Grid, if you’re buying energy in the UK, at least some of the electricity you’re receiving is from renewable resources.
Additionally, renewable resources make up part of the fuel mix of every major energy supplier in the UK: you can see the breakdown of your supplier’s mix on this website.
Additionally, there are a growing number of green energy suppliers, which use only renewable resources to generate electricity and, increasingly, are using biomethane (or green gas) in their gas mixtures. 13% of UK domestic energy customers are now using a green tariff from a green energy provider. The prices of renewable tariffs have fallen considerably and some tariffs from green suppliers undercut those from the Big Six.
Green energy providers in the UK include:
- Bulb: Bulb offers 100% renewable electricity and 10% renewable gas, on one variable tariff that doesn’t charge exit fees.
- Ecotricity: Ecotricity was the first company to offer green electricity, generated from renewable resources including wind, solar, and hydro power. It has no shareholders and uses its profits to fund the construction of new renewable energy infrastructure, including wind turbines and solar panels, and is investing in ‘green gas mills.’ Currently, the gas Ecotricity supplies is 12% ‘green.’
- Good Energy: Good Energy offers 100% renewable electricity generated by wind turbines, solar panels, and hydropower. 6% of their gas comes from biomethane produced in the UK from organic matter including sewage and manure.
- Green Star Energy: Green Star sources 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, including wind and solar.
Where Does Green Energy Come From?
The sources used to generate renewable energy include:
- Wind: Airflow turns the blades of a wind turbine attached to a generator, producing electricity. There are over 9,098 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of more than 20.1GW (gigawatts) in the UK, both onshore and on offshore farms.
- Sun: Electricity is generated when sunlight strikes solar panels and photons excite electrons in the panel’s silicon cells. There’s over 13.05GW of solar capacity in the UK, both on buildings and in large farms, such as the 72MWShotwick Solar Farm.
- hydroelectric: Large volumes of water move a turbine, generating electricity. Hydroelectric schemes in the UK produce around 5,700 GWh, 1.5% of the UK’s total electricity generation. The 1,8000 MW Dinorwig Power Station, a pumped-storage hydroelectric scheme, is the largest hydroelectric installation in the UK.
- organic matter: Material like sewage, manure, and grass (yes, grass) is digested by bacteria through a process called anaerobic digestion that produces biomethane. This takes place in green gas mills.