Whether you’re buying or selling your home, or moving into a new rental property, it’s a good time to compare prices to see if you can pay less for your gas and electricity. Choose a supplier that produces electricity from renewable sources, and you can also enjoy living more sustainably.
The good news is that many mainstream and smaller energy suppliers now offer 100% renewable electricity tariffs – and some have gone one step further by offsetting their carbon footprint when it comes to their customers’ gas usage.
Finding out how energy suppliers source their electricity can be tricky: while companies claim to supply 100% renewable electricity, some are greener than others.
Instead of using fossil fuels, like coal, the greenest energy tariffs will source electricity from UK wind farms or from solar or hydropower. Some suppliers use nuclear power, which doesn’t produce greenhouse gases and is considered a clean fuel, but the uranium and plutonium used to create nuclear power is non-renewable.
Other suppliers ‘greenwash’ their eco credentials by using a loophole where they can buy Renewable Guarantees of Origin (REGO) certificates on the open market – which Ofgem, the energy regulator, requires for an energy tariff to be labelled as green – without buying the renewable electricity itself. Ofgem is currently looking at tightening these regulations.
Bear in mind that the only way to ensure that 100% renewable electricity comes directly into your home is to install solar panels and use solar power. The electricity from the National Grid will be a mix of electricity from renewable and non-renewable sources, but you will be increasing the proportion of renewable energy by signing up to a green tariff.
When you compare energy tariffs, you will see that most energy suppliers that offer 100% renewable electricity don’t supply renewable gas. This is because the UK does not produce enough green gas, such as biomethane sourced from organic waste, to supply all our homes.
A handful of tariffs source 10% or their gas renewably and offset the rest, but their tariffs can be expensive because of their high production costs. Other suppliers – but not all – will offset carbon for the gas their customers use by investing in green initiatives in the developing world or through tree-planting projects.
When is the best time to switch?
If you have never switched energy suppliers – or haven’t done so for over a year –you are likely to save money by switching. If you haven’t signed up for a new deal, energy suppliers will put you one their standard variable rate, or default tariff, which is usually more expensive.
However, if you plan to move house over the next 12 months, don’t switch to a fixed-term tariff – when you are tied to a deal for one or two years – if they charge an exit fee to switch suppliers. Companies can charge up to £50 per fuel if you terminate your contract early. Instead, look at flexible deals or fixes with no exit fee.
Once you’ve moved home, you will then be free to find the best deal and switch again without any extra charges.
Is it easy to switch?
Switching suppliers has never been easier, especially if you switch to one that belongs to the Energy Switch Guarantee scheme. This guarantees a switch within 21 days, with your new supplier contacting your old supplier on your behalf. You will also have a 14-day cooling-off period if you change your mind. But companies that don’t belong to the switch guarantee can also make the switch for you – it just may take a little longer.
Where should I start my search?
The quickest way to find a new tariff is to search for green energy on a price comparison website – it should only take around 10 minutes. But check out more than one site, as each may have its own incentives to switch. Ofgem has a list of accredited price comparison sites that calculate energy prices in an unbiased way.
You can then filter the results to only include green tariffs – Uswitch has introduced a useful green accreditation scheme, which awards green energy tariffs with gold, silver, or bronze status as a guide to how eco-friendly they are. Currently, eight tariffs have gold status: one tariff from British Gas and seven from Good Energy. To get gold status, they must supply 100% renewable electricity, 10% of green gas and invest in future renewable generation to reduce their gas carbon footprint.
Finally, it’s not just about finding a green tariff: you can also improve your energy at home by making small changes. Read our blog on taking control of your home.
And if you’re buying a property off plan or newly built – such as these houses and bungalows at Chatsworth Stables, in Suffolk, or in Elm Court, in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire – it might be easier than you think to add solar panels for direct access to renewable electricity.