What is ‘Green Energy’?

A once sceptical attitude towards helping our environment has rapidly shifted in recent years, helping to grow demand for green energy. A sense of urgency in the need for change is the driving force behind a shift in behaviour that is leading to more and more people actively trying to make positive changes, on an individual level, to help the planet overall. As an added bonus for these green minded individuals, a move towards green energy suppliers (such as Bulb energy) can also provide some big savings on energy bills. At the moment, some of the cheapest gas and electricity deals are being offered by green or renewable energy suppliers. This trend is likely to continue and will probably continue to grow in the near future.

Types of green energy

Green energy often refers to any environmentally friendly method of producing the gas and electricity that you use in your home. These are derived from renewable sources that will have no significant impact on the environment. For electricity production, the main players are wind, solar and hydroelectric. Once set up each of these methods acts to harness the elements passively and, whilst hydroelectric is still at a relatively early stage of research and production, wind turbines are being used in ever increasing numbers to provide a growing proportion of power throughout the UK. Renewable gas is still uncommon but is produced, albeit on a smaller scale, by using a process of breaking down biodegradable materials which is known as ‘anaerobic digestion’.

What is ‘carbon offsetting’?

Not all companies on the market can currently offer 100% green energy. However, the trend is moving towards becoming as carbon neutral as possible. This is achieved in a number of ways and includes Carbon Offsetting. This can be slightly controversial as the energy supplied under these schemes is not green. What these companies do is to try and offset the damage done by whichever method of energy production they are currently using by paying to plant more trees, or by investing in other green projects. If enough trees are planted or investments made, a company can then be considered to have offset its contributions to environmental damage and can call itself carbon neutral.

Other companies will commit to buy as much green energy as you as a bill payer has used. This will mean that although the energy used in your home could potentially have been produced by ‘dirty’ means, your personal contribution will be balanced out by that commitment from your energy supplier.

Is nuclear power green?

Nuclear power can sometimes fall into the green category but is not generally considered as a ‘clean’ source of energy, despite being less of a contributor to climate change than burning fossil fuels. This is because as a source of energy, nuclear is not renewable and has proved controversial in its own right due to the extent of damage caused when such power plants malfunction, or with the challenges to storing of waste materials.

Are green tariffs 100% green energy?

All of these techniques and methods hold a common aim of reducing our reliance on the production and burning of fossil fuels. Our over reliance on this deplete-able energy source has long since been recognised as unsustainable. Therefore, investment in new technologies and infrastructure should be celebrated as a step forward.

However, it is important to note that even though a supplier may be offering 100% green energy, it is still likely that you will have ‘dirty’ produced power flowing into your home. This is because the national network is made up of every available source in the UK and your supplier cannot control the physical flow of gas and electricity throughout the network. To mitigate this, they will employ the method mentioned above and buy as much energy as you have used which means that the more of us that switch to a green tariff, the more green energy will be coursing through the system.

Choosing a green supplier

If you are determined to ‘go green’ the next time you change supplier and this is more important to you than the price of your tariff, then there are a few things to look out for.

Firstly, not all green companies are created equal. Some companies will offer green tariffs alongside there more traditional ‘dirty’ tariffs. It would therefore be important to check the tariff you are signing up for to see which side you will be falling on.

Due to the relative difficulty in producing green gas, many companies can currently only offer green electricity. This means that although you may be getting 100% of your electrical power from green sources, you will still be relying on fossil fuels for your gas supply. Some will even forgo offering renewable energy in favour of using some kind of carbon offsetting tool instead.

As always, the most important thing is to read terms and conditions and learn as much as you can about a company to ensure that you are signing up to a deal that is best for you.

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