Tighter rules needed to stop energy suppliers ‘greenwashing’ their tariffs

Consumers should be given more information about exactly where green energy suppliers source their electricity and gas supplies from, Which? has said.

In a survey of more than 900 people, the consumer organisation found that 72 per cent said they expect that companies selling green tariffs will buy renewable electricity from other companies or generators, while a similar number (67 per cent) expect that the company generates its own renewable electricity.

To be able to call a tariff ‘green’ or ‘renewable’, a supplier matches the electricity consumers use with energy generated from a renewable source.

They do this with renewable energy certificates or REGOs (renewable energy guarantees of origin). But these certificates are not attached to the power, so companies can buy and sell them separately – and often cheaply.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that unbundling REGOs from power “could mean that the supplier of the green tariff is not actually purchasing renewable electricity, but it’s simply purchasing the certificate.”

Which? said that the rules about marketing green tariffs and supplier credentials need to be clearer so that customers can be confident in what they are buying.

The consumer group found that firms such as Northumbria Energy, Utilita and Utility Warehouse were keen to emphasis their green credentials on their website, but none of them generated or bought any renewable power directly from generators, or bought REGO certificates to label all of their power 100 per cent renewable.

Some companies question whether focusing on fuel mix is the best route to net zero. Utilita, for example, told Which? it was set up to help households use less energy.

Of all the renewable-focused providers, Which? ranked Good Energy the highest. In 2019, the firm was the only one to be made exempt from price caps by Ofgem because it could trace 100 per cent of its renewable energy back to the source.

It buys the majority of its renewable electricity directly from generators, including more than a thousand small-scale producers, generates some renewable electricity using solar and wind, and sells green gas.

Another supplier, GEUK, was found to be the only energy firm to sell 100 per cent green gas to its customers.

Harry Rose, the editor of Which? Magazine, said: “We know consumers are growing ever-more environmentally conscious, and our research shows that some energy firms go to great lengths to invest in the technology we need to clean up the grid, generate renewable electricity, or buy it from renewable generators.

“However, some other energy suppliers do the minimum required to label their tariffs ‘green’ and it can be hard for consumers to understand what they are buying.

“Which? believes there needs to be greater clarity on how renewable electricity is defined and marketed. People can only make informed decisions about where to buy their energy from if firms are more upfront and transparent about their green credentials.”

The call for papers is open for the IET Renewable Power Generation conference – taking place in London in September 2022. Successful authors will have their papers published and indexed in IET Inspec, IEEE Xplore and The IET Digital Library. Find out more and submit your abstract by 10 December at theiet.org/rpg

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles