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Everything you need to know aboutGreen Energy

Living a more environmentally friendly life is something that we’re all being encouraged to get on board with. We bet that you already recycle your paper and use a bag for life when you go food shopping. While that’s a great start, have you ever felt like you could be doing more? When it comes to energy, the answer is yes.

If you want to make a bigger impact, going green with the energy you use at home is definitely the way forward. Not only is using green energy far better for the environment in comparison to fossil fuels, it can also be much kinder on your wallet. Who doesn’t love to save money while helping the planet? We know we certainly do.

If you’re eager to know the ins and outs of green energy before you sign up, this guide has all the information you need and more.

What is a green energy?

Green energy utilises natural energy sources such as wind, wave power, solar, as well as hydroelectric, biomass and tidal to produce the electricity you need for your home. These are all renewable resources that can be naturally replenished and you'll be pleased to know that they don't cause any harm to the planet. In contrast, fossil fuels such as coal and petrol which many of us are currently using to power our homes are not only one of the biggest causes of global warming, but they will also eventually run out because they cannot be renewed. 

How is green energy made?

In the UK, the most popular ways of generating green energy is by using wind and solar power. You've probably noticed houses with solar panels on the roof or seen gigantic wind turbines decorating fields or far out at sea in certain parts of the country. These devices gather energy from sunlight and wind which is transferred into electricity. It is then distributed to our homes by the National Grid and used to power our lights and appliances, and to heat our water.

According to Renewable UK, a renewable energy trade association, one single wind turbine can produce enough green electric energy to make 230,000 cups of tea. Now that is impressive.

Electricity is the main energy source produced by green energy, but attempts are being made to produce green gas too. It may be more expensive and tricky to generate gas from renewable energy sources, but some energy suppliers are starting to use bio-methane which is organic matter such as decaying plants, food and animal waste to do just that. So keep an eye out for this in the not so distant future.

What are green energy plans or tariffs?

A green energy plan or tariff is when some or all of the electricity you buy is matched by your energy supplier through purchases of renewable energy that they make on your behalf. These purchases by your supplier can come from a variety of different sources, including hydroelectric power stations and wind farms. There are even some green tariffs that are nuclear-free, which as the name suggests does not include nuclear energy. Your energy supplier should let you know what sources are being included in your fuel mix and how much of your supply is actually renewable. 

Can I make money from renewable energy?

Hands up, who would like to get paid to use electricity? Believe it or not, this is something that is not entirely out of reach. If you're willing to generate your own electricity, either by installing solar panels, small hydroelectric generators or small wind turbines, you can apply for a feed in tariff, otherwise known as FIT from your energy supplier. With this tariff, the government essentially pays you for generating and using your own electricity supply.

After applying for a FIT tariff, your energy supplier will consider the size of your energy system, what it is, when it was installed and how energy efficient your home is. They can then determine an amount for each unit of electricity you generate. Not only will you receive payments for generating your own electricity, but you can also sell any electricity you haven't used back to the National Grid. If this sounds like an appealing option, give your energy supplier a call to see if they offer FIT tariffs.

How do I find a green energy supplier?

From Green Energy or Ecotricity to Green Star, there are plenty of dedicated green energy suppliers out there for you to choose from. There are also mainstream energy suppliers who are starting to provide green energy tariffs for their customers. So you'd be a fool to think that you didn't have any options.

To find out whether a supplier produces green energy or not, you should check on their websites for details of their fuel mix. This is information that Ofgem requires them to publish annually and it shows how much of the energy they sell has come from gas, nuclear, coal and renewable sources. You can then compare this information to see which green supplier will help you reduce your carbon footprint the most. 

Are all green energy tariffs 100% green?

Unfortunately not. When you sign up to a green energy tariff, your electricity is still provided by the National Grid, in the exact same what that a non-green tariff is. While, 25% of the electricity within the National Grid does come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the rest is generated by burning fossil fuels or by nuclear power plants. Because of this assortment of energy sources, there is no guarantee that the electricity that reaches your home is 100% green.

There are green energy suppliers out there who will use a higher percentage of renewable energy sources to give them the power they need to sell to their customers. The best way to find out which suppliers do this is by looking out for the Ofgem Green Energy Label. 

Is green energy likely to be more expensive?

One of the biggest selling points of green energy is its ability to save customers money. While you can slowly save yourself some money by generating your own electricity, some green energy tariffs can be slightly more expensive than standard tariffs.

However, by opting for a fixed rate green energy tariff from a small independent supplier, you'll find that it's generally cheaper than a standard variable rate tariff from a non-green supplier. You may or may not know that fixed tariffs work by locking in a set price that you pay per unit of energy for a certain period of time. This is anything from 1-3 years. The size of your bills will continuously alter depending on the amount of energy you use, but knowing that the cost of your energy won't change during this period can give you extra security and peace of mind.

The downside is that some fixed green energy tariffs will not offer reductions in price and many fixed rate suppliers will charge exit fees if you switch before the end of your contract period.

According to the Department of Energy & Climate Change, 81% of UK residents are supportive of renewable energy resources and want it's use to be increased. This rise in public interest means that tariffs from green energy suppliers will become even more competitive to attract new customers. So while they might seem more expensive right now, these prices could very well drop in future.

If you're interested in joining a green energy supplier to do your bit for the planet, it can be beneficial to check their tariffs before you sign up as smaller energy suppliers can have attractive deals that compete with the Big Six. The easiest way to do this is by doing a quick comparison check on our Energy Saver tool.