Our Guide to Switching to a Green Energy Supplier in the UK
The UK’s energy mix is more diverse than ever before. Even a couple of decades ago energy sources would have been limited to coal, oil or gas - all fossil fuels and terrible for the environment. Thankfully, nowadays the choice is significantly more varied and ‘green energy’ is much more commonplace. Consumers now have the power to select a green energy supplier that allows them to minimise their carbon footprint.
👉 In this article we’ll look at why choosing a green energy supplier is important and how consumers in the UK can switch theirs.
UK energy mix
First up, let's take a closer look at the energy industry in the UK. The UK’s energy mix was at one point reliant on carbon intensive fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, however, in recent years we’ve seen a shift away from these heavy emitters towards renewable sources. In fact, in 2022 as much as 26.8% of the UK’s energy supply came from wind power alone, and a total of 40% was sourced from ‘green energy’.
This is of course great news, and aligns with the UK Government's target of decarbonising the entirety of the UK’s power system by 2035. However, as it stands the UK’s primary source of power is still from fossil fuels - the largest portion of the UK’s energy mix is natural gas at 38.5%. And this is an issue.
Over the last two decades, nearly three quarters of emissions caused by humans stemmed from the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal and oil. It causes huge amounts of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, as well as other harmful pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides and soot. These pollutants are not only bad for the environment but also for human health too.
This is why it's so important that it’s not only governments who tackle carbon emissions, but also companies and individuals. By switching to a green energy supplier or green energy tariff, companies and individuals can not only minimise their carbon footprint but also support the acceleration of the energy sector's decarbonisation. Consumer demand shows energy companies that there is a market for green energy and will incentivise them to offer these environmentally sustainable alternatives.
What is green energy?
Green energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind or water. It often originates from renewable energy sources, though it should be noted that there is a difference between the two terms.
✅Green energy is energy that is renewable, does not emit any greenhouse gases and does not result in any negative impacts on the environment. For example, solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower.
👉 Clean energy means that it does not result in any greenhouse gas emissions, but may come from a finite source or cause harm to the environment via production techniques. An example of clean energy is nuclear power.
Green energy FAQ
Are renewables as good as traditional energy sources?
Definitely! Green energy sources are just as good as the more traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels. You’re home, or business, will run just the same as when it was on a traditional energy tariff. The only real difference is that you’ll be part of the solution to climate change by reducing your carbon footprint when it comes to your electricity consumption.
Will a ‘green energy’ tariff cost more?
There’s a misconception that selecting a green energy tariff will result in higher energy bills, however this is not always the case. Of course, prices vary according to suppliers but in the UK half of the top ten cheapest electricity tariffs are green ones. The best advice for finding a green energy tariff or supplier that doesn’t cost more than your regular one is to shop around, and compare the different options. You should look to compare the smaller providers who specialise specifically in green energy provision, however, you should also consider the traditional larger energy suppliers in the UK, who now also offer green energy tariffs.
Top reasons to switch to a green energy supplier
As we’ve seen in recent years, fossil fuel prices are vulnerable to a multitude of factors that are often beyond our control. For example, global events such as the war in Ukraine or high natural-gas demand in Asia influence prices and can make the fossil fuel market incredibly volatile. Consumers suffer as a result of this by having to pay significantly more on their energy bills. Green energy offers a way out of this since the electricity supply will no longer be dependent on a finite source.
Not only this, but green energy technology and facilities costs less to maintain than that of fossil fuels. Although the initial cost of developing a wind farm may seem expensive, in the long run it’s cheaper to generate electricity this way than at a gas or power station. Therefore, it's likely that green energy plans will work out cheaper than their carbon intensive counterparts in the long-term.
Thanks to North Sea oil and gas production, the UK was a net exporter of energy in the 1990s, however, decline in North Sea production means that nowadays the UK needs to import energy in order to meet the UK’s energy needs. This dependance makes the UK particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global supply and demand and can result in increased energy costs.
By investing in green energy technology and facilities we can reduce this reliance on overseas energy imports and strengthen the UK economy in the process.
Increased energy security
Hand in hand with a strong economy, is increased energy security in the UK. Green energy is generated from technology that allows us to harness power from the sun, wind, and geothermal heat. These are all readily available in the UK and offer an infinite supply, which means that there’s no risk of the supply running out. The more domestic renewable energy sources that the UK adopts for its energy supply, the more self-reliant it will be. This will help to stabilise energy prices and ensure that the UK is never overly dependent on other countries for their energy supply.
Green energy represents a big opportunity in terms of job creation - it has the potential to bring stable, high-wage employment across the UK, including to more rural areas that have traditionally been left behind when it comes to job opportunities.
Green energy also tends to be more labour intensive than fossil fuel technology which is traditionally more capital intensive and mechanised. This means that green energy technology has the potential to create greater job opportunities than traditional energy industries.
We’ve already touched on this at the beginning of the article but one of the most important advantages of switching to a green energy tariff is that it helps to cut down on harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Over recent years we’ve seen the physical effects of global warming with our own eyes, from devastating forest fires in Australia and Canada, to flooding of over one third of Pakistan’s landmass, to increased heat waves; the implications of what will happen if we don’t all take efforts to reduce carbon emissions are becoming all too real. Governments and international bodies across the world are waking up to the situation and are increasingly adopting ambitious net zero targets. However, since energy consumption accounts for 21% of UK carbon emissions, there’s no chance of us achieving these aims unless we all play our part.
This means that both companies and individuals have to look at how they too can cut down on their carbon footprint. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to switch to a green energy supplier.
❗Read the fine print
Green tariffs will vary among suppliers so it’s crucial that you read the fine print to understand what exactly this means. For example, some green energy providers will match your electricity usage by giving back the equivalent in renewable energy to the National Grid. For others, this means that they promise to offset your energy usage by investing in carbon offsetting projects (usually tree planting).
❗️Watch out for greenwashing - some suppliers may also offer ‘renewable energy’, but double check what this actually means as often it can be limited to as little as 15%, meaning that the rest of the energy is provided by non-renewable sources such as natural-gas and coal.
To work out if the provider is as green as they claim to be, take a look at their website and search for their fuel mix disclosure which will detail their sources of energy. If it’s still not clear, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them and ask the question directly.
👀 Looking forward
It can't be denied that fossil fuels have been devastating for the environment and our climate. For years our heavy reliance on these fuels has released harmful amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the environment. We are now waking up to the consequences of this and everyone (governments, companies and individuals) must play their part to help mitigate the worst effects.
Achieving net zero requires that companies and individuals look at ways they too can reduce their impact on the environment, and more specifically, cut down their carbon footprint. One of the most significant sources of emissions comes from consumption of energy and so we need to address this if we’re serious about having an impact. One such way is to switch to a green energy supplier.
And contrary to what many people think, this doesn't have to be expensive and won’t negatively impact the reliability of your energy supply. In fact there are lots of benefits to switching that go beyond long-term cost savings and reliability.
What about Greenly?
At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required.
If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.