Change Energy Supplier: Top 5 Quick Actions for Big Impact #1
Updated: Apr 7, 2019
So you want your business to be more sustainable but there is just so much information out there and so many options...where on earth should you begin? Fear not! We've got you.
To get you started, this series of posts is going to cover the five quickest things you can do for your business to make the biggest impact and the biggest steps towards that magic number: zero.
#1 - Change Your Energy Supplier
If you're not already on a green tariff then you can make a huge impact by switching to one...both in terms of reducing emissions and support for a more sustainable world.
Running on green power has a host of benefits for any business; not only will you improve your environmental credentials, strengthen your brand and attract ethical customers, you will also future proof your business with a more sustainable energy supply, benefit from more stable costs as you avoid the fluctuations of dwindling fossil fuels, and be ahead of the curve as the entire industry inevitably shifts to end fossil fuel consumption. All that and you can often save money on your energy bills too!
Here's how it works: the UK grid is made up of a mix of power coming from different sources all feeding in – wind, solar, hydro, biomass, nuclear, coal, gas, oil etc. When you draw power from the grid, you get the same mix as everyone else, no matter who your supplier is. BUT when you are on a green tariff, your supplier has committed to buying/generating an equivalent amount of energy from a renewable source. So for every kWh of “green” power they sell to you, they have to add one kWh of real green power to the grid.
Changing to a green supplier therefore increases the amount of renewables being bought and generated instead of non-renewables, demonstrating demand and slightly changing the overall mix that everyone gets. Eventually, if 100% of UK customers shift over to a green tariff then 100% of the energy will HAVE to be sourced from renewable sources...and we could ditch the fossil fuels for good. Of course, right now the UK doesn't have the capacity to do this, but if we gradually increase demand for greener sources then investment in the renewable industry will have to follow to keep up with that demand, and soon we will. This is vital to future-proofing the UK energy market, increasing energy security and making the UK far less reliant on volatile overseas fossil fuel markets.
Substantially Increasing the Global Percentage of Renewable Energy by 2030 is also one of the UN's Global Goals for Sustainable Development - it's Target #7.2 - so you'll be helping those along too.
What does the mix look like now?
Currently UK energy is at a ratio of approx 30% renewables, 21% nuclear and 49% fossil fuels (mostly gas), so we still have a way to go.
Together, the Big Six – British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power, and SSE – hold about 81% of the electricty market and 80% of the gas supply, a significant drop from 100% market share in 2009. The needle is shifting and you can help.
2017 saw the UK run continuously for an entire day without any coal generation for the first time since the industrial revolution; in April 2018 that figure went up to 76 hours, with windpower (24.9%) slightly outperforming nuclear (23.3%) during the break. There are currently six countries that run at or near 100% renewable electricity: Iceland, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Norway, Paraguay and Tajikistan - with populations ranging from 329,100 to nearly 9 million - as well as Scotland, British Columbia, New Zealand's South Island, and a host of smaller communities.
Isn't it more expensive?
Not necessarily. Prices for green energy have been decreasing over the last few years as awareness and demand increase, and now many of the green suppliers are competitively priced; often you can even save money compared to prices from the Big Six. Furthermore, any renewable energy you use is exempt from the Climate Change Levy, saving 0.847p on each kWh of business electricity used and 0.339p on each kWh of business gas (April 2019).
What if the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining??
Nobody wants an unreliable electricity supply. Luckily, there have also been significant recent advancements in energy storage technology - some are even calling it the energy revolution. Being able to store electricity in reliable battery banks means we can generate as much power as we like when the sun is shining (or wind is blowing) and then save it until we need it. This kind of technology will not only be able to replace current peak power infrastructure - in some markets renewables plus battery storage is already cheaper than coal generation - but provides an opportunity for smart businesses to become generators themselves, using their own power, and storing the excess for use later.
How do I choose a Green Supplier?
All suppliers are required by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to source some of their power from renewables and publish information about their energy mix on their website. Sometimes it can be hard to find, but googling "[company name] fuel mix disclosure" usually helps.
There are more than ten providers in the UK who supply 100% renewable electricity, though the green gas market is a little more complicated, with the various suppliers offering different ratios of green to standard gas, and different combinations of being frack free, vegetarian, vegan, and/or carbon neutral.
The supplier you choose will be based on your preferences for a number of factors, such as price, contract terms, availablity in your area, and the ethical priorities of your business and customers. Please also remember that every little bit helps, so if you your first choice of green provider is not practical for you (for whatever reason) then going with the next best option will still make a difference and is still much better than staying with a standard provider.
The Main Green Suppliers (all offer 100% green electricity):
Green Energy UK are the only company to offer 100% green gas, but they source this largely from the waste on pig farms, which is not technically vegan. You can read articles on this subject here and here to help you decide if it's something you (or your customers) will have a problem with or not.
Ecotricity supplies only 14% green gas, but it is certified vegan, 100% frack-free and they are building green gas mills with their profits, all earning them a recommendation from Ethical Consumer Magazine. They are registered with the Vegan Society.
Good Energy are also recommended by Ethical Consumer Magazine and offer 6% green gas from biomethane, which is carbon offset by verified carbon-reduction schemes in Vietnam, Nepal and Malawi.
Bulb have one of the lowest tariffs on the market, supplying 10% green gas from biomethane (containing only 0.4% animal waste).
There are other companies that offer green energy throughout the UK, sometimes as their main product and sometimes as an extra tariff. It pays to do your research though - at first glance Pure Planet seems to be a green company, offering 100% carbon neutral and frack-free gas, but with further research one can see that their gas all comes from standard sources and 24% of the company is owned by BP.
Stay tuned for our next blog post in the series; Top 5 Quick Actions for Big Impact - #2