Many energy companies are offering 'green tariffs', but climate change groups are warning consumers that they may not actually all be that green. A 'green' tariff can currently mean anything from 100% renewable energy to complete greenwashing - when a company gives misleading or false information about its sustainability practices in a bid to influence customers.
Good Energy is an energy company that operates on a 100% renewables basis, and it recently topped a ranking of the most sustainable energy providers in the UK. The company explains that many other companies simply buy REGO - electronic certificates that can be bought for units of generated renewable energy - and build them into their energy mix. They can then say that they are renewable energy providers, despite having no direct clean energy generation.
REGO certificates, which evidence 'green sources', are the UK equivalent of European Guarantees of Origin (GoOs). The prices of these certificates are set by market demand. All electricity is mixed once it goes into the grid, regardless of it source, which means that many 'so-called' green energy providers are not actually adding to the UK's clean energy generation figures at all but simply buying certificates on the market as part of a greenwashing campaign.
Energy providers that use fossil fuels and nuclear power can also purchase REGO certificates to suggest that the origin of their energy is from green sources. The challenge for customers is to find truly green tariffs, because search engines and comparison sites often misleadingly list providers that simply trade REGO certificates despite using fossil fuels. With only highly motivated customers able to find true green energy suppliers, the onus is on the market and consumer groups to help eco-friendly customers find the tariffs that really make a difference.