Thursday 11 June 2009

Easier Than Making a Decent Paper Plane

Daniel Harris of Freewheelers did a little impromptu survey of people on the Climate March last year to see how many had switched to renewable energy. Out of a random 53 of those people who had bothered to get out of bed, travel into Central London and march for the climate that day;
"7 people didn't know where their electricity came from; 24 knew they were using a non-renewable supply; 3 said they were moving to renewable electricity; and 19 said they were already on renewable thank you"
That's a bit rubbish, really. Only 36% of people marching for action on climate change had switched their own supply? It may be less exciting than dressing up as a parrot and a gorilla, but switching is a much more "direct" action and it's very much easier. I suspect that most people are just put off by misconceptions about how difficult it is to switch, given that almost no one understands much of the information given on their energy bills let alone which companies are "green" or which is the best tariff they offer.

But if you live in the UK and you want a green supplier then it's easy.

You really don't need to know what a kilowatt hour or a
standard energy unit is. You don't need to shop around, because there's only one company, Good Energy, offering 100% renewable electricity in the UK. You don't need to compare different tariffs because they only have one, and not only is it not rocket science, it's easier than making a decent paper plane.

The most difficult part is the very first step – you’ll need to find a previous electricity bill. This is tricky if your filing system is anything like mine, but do it for the planet…

That will give you both your meter number, which will be obvious because it looks like this;
and a rough idea of how much you spend per month on electricity. Go to the Good Energy website, click on "Join Good Energy" and fill in the form. It also asks things like your name and address, and they'll ask you to send them a meter reading as soon as you can, and that's it.

Uniquely among UK utility companies they actually answer the phone if you need to call them, so if you have any problems or if you'd rather do the whole thing by phone then you can speak to real human beings on 0845 456 1640.

However pretty the leaflets your current supplier sends you - even if it claims to be endorsed by the RSPB or Greenpeace - if you haven't done this yet then the very screen you're reading this from is unnecessarily damaging the environment, and it will continue to do so until you switch. Detail on whatever might have confused you about the "green" credentials of other suppliers is in Merrick's article "How Green is Green Electricity?"

But if all you need is motivation to just do it right now, imagine the embarassment of unexpectedly being asked to explain why you hadn't got around to it yet while wearing that parrot costume on a large climate change demo in the middle of London on a cold December day.


merrick said...

You don't need to shop around, because there's only one company, Good Energy, offering 100% renewable electricity in the UK.

To be precise, there's only one company who *only* offer 100% renewable electricity. There are other 100% renewable tariffs, but they're all scams to varying degrees.

James Higham said...

I ride a bike - does that count?

barney said...

Thanks, Alice, the team here at 100% Towers are grateful for your support! Best, Barney (MD of GE)

Alice said...

Cheers Merrick!

James - I'm very impressed if you get all your electricity from riding a bike - tell me more.

Barney - You're welcome. I'd do more if GE would send me out some publicity with which to recruit my friends, but I haven't been able to get them to send me any yet. Can you pull any strings?

barney said...

am pulling them now. we have a good pack of stuff to help our pioneers. gillian is in charge. I have asked her to get some stuff through to you.

Alice said...

Cheers Barney, I guess you'll need my contact details to do that.

Could you maybe give me your email address to send my postal address to? If you post it in a comment and then go straight back and delete the comment, then it will reach me but not be publically visible on the blog.

barney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
barney said...

Good point, Len. We are the only company with a 100% renewable fuel mix. With regards ROC retirement - we do go over and above legal requirement but it is not literally true that we retire a full 10% of ROCs. The full detail is on our website as you have linked to. It is true that one of our rivals has had a good old rant on this and made some fairly aggressive accusations. We admire his passion. We've clarified the situation and with UK grid average at 5.5% there are other battles to be won. We have been pushing for the,now imminent, introduction of OFGEM green supplier guidelines – lack of industry-wide standards makes it difficult for consumer to be confident in selecting a green tariff. How does my electricity bill turn into a wind turbine? How do we ensure that greeness is only being counted once? It's complex for the average consumer - that’s why we choose to be a 100% renewable supplier – it’s measured independently and is unequivocal. We think that ROCs are an important incentive for renewable generators and our methodology for handling them is born out of the complexity of the market rather than a desire to be duplicitous, It’s fair to say that the situation is difficult to explain succinctly (contrary to accusations it doesn’t feature on our marketing material) and has become lost in translation in some cases but we have certainly not set out to deceive – it’s not in our nature. Bring on the green supplier guidelines.

merrick said...


thanks for picking up on that point (and for being good enough to include links, so often a refutation undermines itself by not doing that).

I'd taken the 10% thing from this admittedly ancient source.

The facts are more complex. GE say they retire 5% of ROCs above what they're obliged to do (a number that rises every year).

Because the government gives 'obligation' ROCs a rebate but not 'retirement' ones, the retirement ones are effectively more expensive. As such, Good Energy say they retire the 'financial equivalent' of 5%.

Ecotricity's head honcho argues that ROC retirement is very expensive and doesn't bring on new renewables. They argue we get much more bang for our bucks by selling excess ROCs and using all the money to build new wind turbines.

That is an honourable position.

However, it is not just excessively catty of him to attack Good Energy in the terms he had but also something of an exercise in a glasshouse resident throwing stones.

They claim 'Ecotricity is harnessed from natural sources, like the wind, the sun and water, that don't pollute and don't contribute to climate change.'

In fact, most of what they supply comes from fossils and nukes.

Dale Vince said...

Hi Guys, Ecotricity 'head honcho' here. Thought I'd join in with a couple of points.

Merrick, our current fuel mix is more than 50% self built renewables, that's what 'most' of it is. Each year we increase that proportion through building more. Our literature is very clear on this.

We spend more per capita than all the rest of the UK's suppliers put together, BTW. And only new build fights climate change, 100% tariffs are an illusion - when you buy them you take the power from someone else.

Barney of Good Energy is being economical with the truth on ROCs - Good Energy have been making very simple public claims to retire 5% of ROCs (last four years) and when you look at OFGEM evidence it turns out not to be true (ever). When confronted with this 'inconvenient truth' Barney stalled for two months (I have the e-mail trail) and then, only then, Good Energy announced this new 'equivalence policy'. When we crunched the numbers on that, it too was untrue, so days later Good Energy announced another caveat - they deduct home generator payments from the value of ROCs retired.... guess what, the numbers say this claim is also un true.

Long term, real retirement, is running at about 30% of the claim - nothing has been retired for over two years now, that needs explaining - so come on Barney, tell us about that pls.

Good Energy have been deceitful on this and continue to try and spin their way out of it. It's not a nice message and it's an occupational hazard to be 'shot' for bringing it - but it's the truth.

BTW, on the issue of selling ROCs, I def do believe that it is better to use them for their intended purpose - building new renewables.

But ROCs from Ecotricity machines don't just enable the big six to meet their obligation (a frequent criticism) - they also enable Good Energy to meet their obligation.

Which is OK, but to criticise us for selling ROCs and meanwhile be a user of them......not so good.