What is renewable energy, why does it matter, and how can you can get it? This energy guide will give you an overview of everything you need to know.
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy refers to energy collected from sustainable sources, which naturally replenish and therefore never run out.
With natural sunlight being available in great abundance, solar energy is becoming the fastest growing renewable source for electricity. Solar panels on large farms are able to absorb and convert energy from the sun into electricity for us to use.
Globally, the most widely used source of renewable electricity is Hydropower. This is because it reliably generates energy, independent of weather conditions, unlike some other sources.
Hydro electricity is collected through a carefully controlled stream of water powering a turbine. Whilst the infrastructure of building artificial dams and barriers can be expensive initially, hydroelectricity is actually the cheapest source of renewable energy.
Another form of hydropower is wave energy, whereby generators are powered by tidal currents. Due to the ever-changing tide, their efficiency is lower compared to other sources of renewables.
The UK has close to 2,500 wind farms both on and off-shore, which produce enough green energy to supply over 15 million households. Whilst residents nearby might not enjoy the views, wind energy in the UK is both cost-effective and eco-friendly.
Does renewable gas exist?
Although there are many different ways of sourcing renewable or green electricity, the same cannot be said about gas.
Green gas or biogas is produced from animal or landfill waste gas, at anaerobic digestion plants. At the moment, not many of such plants exist in the UK. This means that green gas is not widely available nor as cost-competitive with non-green options.
What is wrong with fossil fuels?
Coal, crude oil, and natural gas are formed from the remnants of dead organisms over a span of millions of years. As such, they are finite resources that we cannot depend on for energy generation across the world. Yet, more than half of the UK’s electricity comes from non-renewable sources.
Whilst this percentage is slowing shrinking, fossil fuels are further causing significant damage to the environment. Burning the fuels releases carbon monoxide into the air, which is largely responsible for heat and sea levels rising.
For this reason, customers and energy supplier alike, are taking a keen interest in greener options.
Why does renewable energy matter?
Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy is generated from replenishable resources, such as the sun, wind, or water. With renewables, more energy is made than used in its production. This provides us with a reliable and diverse source of electricity.
Although there are some emissions in its generation, renewable sources are significantly cleaner and greener than non-renewable resources.
Therefore, switching your energy supply to a green deal is a great way of reducing your carbon-foot print.
Good Energy report that an average sized household switching to green renewable electricity, can save up to half a tonne of CO2 a year.
How green is my green energy deal?
When a supplier advertises a “green” energy deal, you will see there are varying shades of what may be described as green or renewable.
In order to truly receive 100% renewable energy, your household must be connected directly to a generator. Without solar panels or a windmill in your garden, your energy supply will instead be coming from the National Grid where electricity is distributed. This includes a mix of renewables, nuclear gas as well as coal.
A handful of UK energy suppliers, generate their own renewable electricity, contributing to the fuel mix in the National Grid. Others may purchase renewable electricity directly from independent generators.
A large number of suppliers claiming to be green however, simply acquire REGO certificates. REGO stands for Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificate; these certify a share of the energy purchased as being green or renewable. A problem with this method is, that these certificates are very cheap and easy to buy for suppliers. Therefore they don’t fully represent to what extent the supplier's power is renewable.
To find out exactly where your power comes from, it is therefore best to check the supplier's website directly.
If you want to validate your Green Gas certificate, you can check its authenticity here.
Are renewable energy deals more expensive?
Whether green energy is more expensive, depends on a number of different factors.
Installing your own solar panels for instance, will be a pricy endeavour to begin with, but cost-efficient in the long run. For a lot of green conscious people this might not be a viable option however.
A good alternative would be to find a supplier that invests in renewable sources such as solar or wind. Otherwise, there are suppliers who plant trees in an effort to offset the usage of non-renewable power.
As there are numerous ways in which a supplier can qualify to be “green”, you can expect to see the same variation in cost across both green and non-renewable energy deals.
If your primary concern is cost, make sure to switch a green deal that is fixed.
Which energy suppliers offer renewable energy?
Whilst there are a number of suppliers with “Green” in the name, don’t be quick to dismiss the others.
In fact, at present there are only a few suppliers in the UK offering 100% renewable energy. These include Good Energy, Green Energy UK, Ecotricity, Bulb, or Outfox The Market.
Many others buy their energy from renewable sources, or do carbon offsetting.
When you are searching for a new deal, most comparison websites or switching services don’t give you a full breakdown of what makes a particular tariff green. For this reason, it is always worth visiting the supplier’s website directly, for more information.
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