Green power: making the energy switch

A wind turbineSwitching to a green energy supplier is something I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of years now. I think I’ve been putting it off as I knew it might require a fair bit of research. I had to write a presentation for a course I was on at work this week so decided to do the green switch as part of a research project, killing two birds with one stone….

First off, I wanted to work out how much energy we actually use, so I downloaded our consumption history from the Scottish Power website (click below for full table). While electricity use has remained a fairly steady 6 or 7 kWh per day, gas usage varies massively according to the time of year, and since we had such a cold winter this year, our average use rocketed to 27 kWh per day. Yikes.

And how much do we currently pay?

Electricity: a standing charge of 13.39p per day, and then 10.246p per kWh.Gas: a standing charge of 13.12p per day, as well as an Independent Gas Transporter charge of 10.96p per day. Then it’s 3.057p per kWh.

Then I took a look at how much the various electricity companies use renewable sources to generate their power. As you can see, it’s only Ecotricity, Good Energy, and Green Energy UK that make a real commitment to renewables:

Fuel mix of the mainstream electricity suppliers

How much money UK electricit supplies invest in renewable technologySo, how to choose between these three?

The main differences are that while Ecotricity does have nuclear, coal and natural gas as part of its fuel mix, Good Energy and Green Energy UK use 100% renewable sources.

However, as the chart to the left shows, only Ecotricity actively uses the money it makes to build renewable sources itself. They’ve built or are building 108 wind turbines around the UK, while Good Energy and Green Energy UK have not created any such renewable power themselves (though note that the stats come from WhichGreen, which was created by Ecotricity!).

So I faced a bit of a dilemma over which to go with.

I looked into the gas supply side of things too. None of the companies have really offered much in the way of ‘green gas’ until literally this year, but now Ecotricity is generating green gas from biomethane, and feeding it into the gas grid just like they are with electricity.

Green Energy UK supplies only electricity at the moment, and Good Energy’s ‘green gas’ concept seems more based on getting people to generate heat through solar panels rather than actually generating a gas which can feed into the gas grid.

Interesting, British Gas has also started generating green gas this year but I’d far rather give my money to a company with a conscience like Ecotricity.

Cost was another factor as my flatmate and I are hardly made of money and while we’re keen to do our bit for the environment we don’t have a huge stack of cash left each month to play with. At the Camden Green Fair a few months back, I picked up a leaflet from which I used to do a quick price comparison for the three eco-conscious suppliers, after inputting our average usage.

Green Energy UK only suppliers electricity, not dual fuel, and we’d rather have just the one bill if possible. How much does green energy cost?So this is how Ecotricity and Good Energy measured up (click the image for the full chart).


Ecotricity is certainly the cheapest option – they actually promise to price match Scottish Power on electricity. I also like the fact that there’s no standing charge. Since we’re low-usage, we only want to pay for what we use. Taking into consideration the investment that Ecotricity is making in generating the power of the future, we decided to go with them.

Switching via earned us a free gift too as we had a promo code on the leaflet. I emailed Ecoswitch for clarification on what gift we qualified for, and got a friendly email back 30 minutes later…a really impressive service!

Since our kettle is knackered and leaking, it made sense to go with the EcoKettle as our free gift. Ecoswitch will also plant two trees on our behalf, apparently. I’m undecided on how much good planting trees can do but it surely can’t hurt can it?

So, the ‘switch’ has been made and now we’re just waiting for Scottish Power to release us to our new, greener energy supplier. Can’t wait for the kettle to turn up too – it looks like a smasher!

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