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Climate Emergency: Bovey and Heathfield

Tue 11 Feb 2020

Concerned about the climate emergency?  It's time to consider changing your electricity provider and going onto a genuinely green tariff.

Bovey Tracey has joined the growing number of towns and cities across the UK declaring a climate emergency. The science is clear: we have little more than a decade to avoid catastrophic climate change. Local communities like ours must take the lead in putting words into action. Encouraging residents and businesses to switch to green energy is one of the planks in our strategy to become carbon neutral. 

Switching to a green tariff for electricity is one of the simplest and most significant things we can do to fight climate change. But which tariff to choose? There are numerous different tariffs, many of which now call themselves 'green'.  However a number of these  tariffs have been described by the consumer magazine Which? as greenwash.

So what is greenwash?

 Greenwash has been defined as the practice of making a misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product or service.  These greenwash tariffs will have less (and sometimes considerably less) than 100% of their energy generated from renewable sources. They give the illusion of greenness which could mislead their customers.  In reality only a proportion of their electricity from these providers comes from sustainable sources.

By green or ‘clean’ electricity we mean power generated from renewable sources – sun, wind, water (rivers, tides or wave power) and bio-fuels (such as gas released by rotting food waste). Unlike electricity generated by burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas), clean energy has little impact in terms of climate change and air pollution.

Of course all the electricity we use in our homes is exactly the same as that used by our neighbours, no matter what tariff we are on.  The difference between an ordinary or greenwash tariff and a genuine green/clean tariff is the amount of investment put into further renewable electricity.  Some electricity providers do little over and above what they are required to do by Ofgem, the government regulator. 

The cleanest tariffs are those where the electricity providers consistently generate enough renewable electricity themselves or buy the equivalent directly from generators. Which?  has described two companies (Good Energy and Ecotricity) as dark green. Our enquires indicate that Green Energy also fits into this category.

(The Which? article from October 2019 is available from us or from Bovey Tracey library in the CEBH resource file).   

There are a number of suppliers which Which? then described as mid green. These are the companies which have some direct contracts with renewable generators but are also aiming to keep prices lower.  These include Bulb.

Which? then goes on to describe some companies as pale green.  They claim to provide 100% renewable power but this is backed exclusively by government certificates which give the illusion of greenness to customers.  We consider their claims to be greenwash.

Why switch?

When a typical home switches to a genuinely renewable tariff, it cuts carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking an average car off the road for six months.   It is perfectly possible to switch without any third party involvement, but if you wish to use a switching website we’re providing information on an organisation called Big Clean Switch (BCS) to help local people and businesses to make that switch.   BCS list tariffs where the supplier can guarantee that 100% of the electricity sold is matched by energy from renewables – sun, wind, water and bio-fuels and they vet their suppliers to make sure both their green credentials and customer service are up to scratch.   Switching is free and BCS claims that the bills for many homes will be lower after switching.   The costs of the switch and BCS’s support are paid by the company to which you switch, but this does not affect your tariff. There’s no need for engineers’ visits and no break in supply.  Of course there is no requirement to use a switching company; some people manage a switch of their supplier themselves.

Bovey Tracey town council is already planning to switch when its current tariff expires early in 2020.    To do this the council used the BCS website and found it a relatively straightforward exercise.  The BCS team will handle the actual switch over and the council hopes to save around 5% of its electricity costs.   Bovey Paradiso is also looking into setting up a green provider for the  power supply in its new building.

There are a number of helpful FAQs and a wealth of further information on the Big Clean Switch website (bigcleanswitch.org).  Or you can phone on 0800 249 4770.

If you do make this switch, and we really hope many of you will, please let us know at cebh@boveytracey.gov.uk

Together, we can make a difference.



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