You’ve probably heard the term ‘greenwashing’; it’s been around since the ‘80s when it was coined to describe seemingly outrageous corporate environmental claims, and originated from the well-known term ‘whitewashing’ which describes a deliberate attempt to conceal something unpleasant, deceitful or incriminating.
Essentially, greenwashing is when a company makes customers believe that its products or services are greener than they really are, and it’s a practice that’s been on the rise in the energy industry in recent years.
It’s a complex topic, and in an era when fake news is commonplace, it can be hard to pick out reliable and trustworthy sources of information. The truth is that not all green energy tariffs are created equal and many consumers mistakenly believe they are doing the right thing with their choice of energy supplier, when the truth is a bit different.
At Zellar, we believe that everyone has the right to know where their energy comes from, understand how green energy really works and how green their energy supplier is, so they can choose a tariff that fits their needs and their principles.
It’s time to debunk some myths around greenwashing, but let’s start with the basics.
It’s important to clear up a common misconception about green energy supply into your home or business. All energy, no matter whether it’s from a ‘green’ or renewable source like wind, solar or hydro, or the dirty ‘brown’ stuff like coal, oil or gas, goes into the National Grid. This means that no company can guarantee the energy supplied to your home or business is 100% green.
When consumer watchdog Which? investigated greenwashing last year, Zellar’s partner, Ecotricity came out as one of the top suppliers.
Research found that greenwashing occurs when companies buy their green status with certificates called Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origins (REGOs) from companies who generate the energy. These REGOs are issued to green energy generators by Ofgem, the energy regulator, for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of green energy they produce.
A loophole in the Fuel Mix disclosure regulations means that a green energy generator can separate the sale of green energy from the sale of the REGO that goes alongside it. As a result, what tends to happen is that a generator sells its energy on to a supplier, along with the accompanying REGO, and that way the supplier can ‘prove’ the energy it supplies is green. However – and this is where the truth begins to unravel – many suppliers do not do this; they just buy the REGO certificates to match the energy they supply to their customers, without buying the green energy from the generator too.
In a nutshell, then, suppliers can call themselves green while in actual fact buying fossil fuel energy and greenwashing it with purchased REGOs. These certificates can be traded for as little as £1.55 a year per household, which makes it a cheap and easy way for suppliers to give the impression of greenness to customers while ultimately exploiting them.
Greenwashing is not good for current consumers and it’s not good for the future of the planet either. At present, only around 33% of the electricity in Britain is renewable, and we can only get to 100% if we build more green energy from wind, solar or hydro sources. Trading REGO certificates doesn’t help provide financial support to green generators which would enable them to build the new sources of green energy we need if we’re to help tackle the climate crisis.
Back in April 2019, Zellar’s partner Ecotricity was awarded green derogation, recognising its long-term commitment to invest in and support the generation and production of green energy in Britain. Since the company was founded in 1996, they’ve been working to grow the number of wind and sun mills they own and operate. Unlike any other energy company, they’re funded directly by their customers, and their commitment to building more green energy is paid for by a process called ‘bills into mills’. Around a fifth of the electricity sold is generated from their own growing fleet of green energy parks – and the rest from other green generators.
Find out how green your energy is at Zellar. See the fuel mix behind your business energy, and how much CO2 is being emitted to power it in less than a minute.