There can't be many people left who aren't aware of the devastating
effect that excessive carbon dioxide emissions are having on our
environment. The prospect of climate change should be a real concern for
all of us. Stories of melting ice caps may seem remote today, but they will
not be so irrelevant when the resultant rise in sea levels leaves the waves
lapping around our ankles.
It has been said numerous times before
that only a few small changes to our
lifestyles could have a big impact on the
future of the planet. The difference now is
that not only is the pressure to make these
changes mounting, but governments have begun to listen to the environmental
campaigners and enshrine their objectives
One of these changes is a decision to
apply Energy Performance Certificates
(such as those found on fridges and
freezers) to all houses bought and sold or rented in
England and Wales. These give every house
an A to G rating for its energy efficiency
and carbon emissions, as well as offering
information on how these ratings can be
Beside these measures, there is plenty of room for most
households to make substantial savings on
their CO2 emissions (and therefore their
energy bills) by improving their insulation,
installing energy-efficient light bulbs and
buying the most environmentally-friendly
appliances for their home.
The most important decision to
make is the switch to renewable energy.
This is now easier than ever before,
particularly as most of the major
companies offer their own 'green' energy
packages. The best option, however, is to
switch to an energy company which truly supports renewable energy or even to set up a micro generation site of your own.
This section of The Good Shopping Guide
includes an in-depth look at renewable
energy, as well as tips on home efficiency
and a few novel gadgets that could help
cut your energy use even further.
RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY SUPPLIERS
Switching to a green electricity supplier is a great way to reduce your
CO2 emissions. Green power is a growing area, and the more demand there
is for renewable energy, the more pressure there will be on governments
and power companies to provide it. Many potential customers are put off
from making the switch by the challenge of finding the right tariff,
which is why this guide is here to help.
The future of energy is green...
The biggest sources of carbon dioxide
emissions are power stations, which account
for around one third of the total produced.
Coal power stations are the least efficient,
and although the increased popularity of
natural gas burning has reduced our
potential CO2 emissions slightly, the
benefits are offset by an increase in energy
usage overall. Our rising electricity
consumption requires more and more power
to be generated, and although consumers'
energy efficiency can help reduce this, the
only real alternative is to source electricity
from renewable resources.
The domestic energy market is confusing.
A few years ago customers knew that one
gas company supplied their gas and nothing
else, and another did the same with their
electricity. In recent years all customers have
been able to change their gas or electricity
supplier and over 19 million have swapped in
search of a better deal. Now homeowners
have a dazzling array of tariffs and service
providers, before they even attempt to take
the environment into account.
Most of the main energy companies
provide some kind of green tariff for
electricity. The price and coverage depends
on the area in which you live, but it is
generally accepted that green electricity
tariffs cost the consumer slightly
Green energy supply has been available
to some customers in this country from as
far back as 1997. However, it did not truly
become an option for the average consumer
until the energy market was completely
opened up to competition in May 1999.
Since then the offerings that are available
have come a long way.
The green energy revolution has gained
significant support at a commercial level.
Large energy users and corporations have
taken to green energy in a big way. It is not
only the large 'green'-centric companies such
as The Body Shop that have a green power
supply, but also institutions including
Oxford University, who have 100 per cent
of their energy needs provided for by a
Any company, small or large, that claims
'corporate social responsibility' but has not
yet switched to a renewable energy supply
should think again!
With an increasing number of green energy tariffs now
available in the UK, there is a lot of choice
around for the consumer. However, it is
not the case that these tariffs all offer the
The most important issue for those on
a budget may be that of cost. For an average
household, as you might expect due to
economies of scale, the price of receiving a
green energy supply is slightly higher.
. However, changing your methods of
payment to either direct debit or one annual
fee can, in most cases, partially offset the extra
cost, so there is no reason not to change
your supply today.
Why switch to renewable electricity?
When we read the newspapers and watch
the news on TV every day, and see the
environmental disasters and freak weather
conditions that are attributed to global
warming, we can see for ourselves the effects
of the by-products of traditional energy
generation. Electricity production is the
single biggest contributor to the emissions
that cause climate change.
The prime gas responsible for global
warming or the 'greenhouse effect' is carbon
dioxide or CO2. The burning of oil, coal and
gas (otherwise known as fossil fuels) in
traditional power stations produces a
considerable amount of carbon dioxide.
The UK, which has 1 per cent of the
world's population, emits 2.3 per cent of
the world's total emissions of CO2.
Not only do fossil fuels contribute
to the degradation of the environment,
they are also finite in nature and increasingly
have to be imported into the UK, sometimes
from politically unstable areas of the world.
It is only a matter of time before the planet's
supply of these fuels runs out.
One alternative to traditional fuel burning
stations is nuclear power. This, however, is far
from being a solution to global pollution.
Although British Nuclear Fuels Limited
(BNFL) has been pushing nuclear power as
the non-polluting solution to climate change,
this is certainly not the case. During its
lifetime (around 30-40 years) a nuclear
reactor can produce radioactive waste that
has a 'lifespan' of thousands of years. This
waste needs to be disposed of safely, as it is
highly dangerous. Although no CO2 is
produced there are other by-products to the
nuclear process that could potentially do
serious harm to the environment.
In contrast to these more traditional forms
of energy supply is renewable or 'green' energy.
Not only does green energy not directly result
in any by-products that may be harmful to our
environment, it also comes from renewable
and everlasting sources such as wind and water or the sun
In fact, most forms of renewable energy
produce very little or no waste, and therefore
have a minimal impact on the world around us.
When you switch to a renewable energy
supply, you are also supporting the future of
the renewable energy industry. By showing
the government and mainstream energy
suppliers that you wholeheartedly support
renewable energy, you can help convince
them to increase the support they offer to
the industry as a whole
How do you switch?
The great thing about switching to a green
energy tariff is that it's incredibly easy to do.
There is no need to get the electricians in, or
have anything changed physically with your
electricity supply. This is down to the nature
of the green energy tariffs available to the
consumer. These include the energy-based
tariff, the fund-based tariff and tariffs that
offer a combination of the two.
Of the choices available, the energy-based
tariff is the one that actually offers you
renewable energy in return for your money.
Whilst there is no change in the actual
electricity coming down the wires into your
home when you subscribe to an energy-based
tariff, a proportion of what you pay will be
matched by the equivalent amount of energy
being fed into the national grid from
renewable sources. 100% renewable energy tariffs promise over the course of the
year to match 100 per cent of the units of
electricity you buy from them with an equal
amount from renewable sources.
With fund-based energy tariffs a
proportion of the money you pay the
supplier is donated into a fund that
supports new renewable capacity, green
causes or other related initiatives. An
independent body, established either by the
supplier or a registered charity, normally
administers these funds. In some cases the
donation made from the consumer is
matched in equal amounts by a donation
made by the tariff supplier. A combination
tariff is usually some mixture of both fund based
and energy-based supply.
It is extremely easy to switch to a green
energy tariff. All you need to do is register
your interest with a supplier and they can
sign you up over the phone or send you
forms to fill out by post. It is also possible
to switch your supplier with very little
hassle online at www.gooshing.co.uk. Here
you can arrange to pay by direct debit,
which will also save you money.
Over the following pages you will
find information about the most widely
available tariffs and how they operate,
plus The Good Shopping Guide's ratings for
Choosing the best supplier
With the introduction of the Renewables Obligation in England and Scotland in 2002 (2005 in Northern Ireland), energy suppliers have been required to ensure that over the years an increasing proportion of
all the electricity they provide comes from
renewable energy sources. The minimum target was set at 3% when the obligation was introduced and will rise to 15.4% in 2015-16. For each unit of
renewable energy bought they receive a
certificate. If companies fail to match the
required percentage they may buy
certificates from those companies that have
exceeded their minimum.
In order to reach their minimum
requirement, large energy suppliers offer a
green tariff to customers. In many cases this
does not exceed or match the minimum
percentage of renewable energy that the supplier
is required to provide, as demand for
traditional tariffs is still considerably greater.
These suppliers then have to buy in
certificates from smaller niche companies
who only offer a green tariff, or whose green
tariff makes up more than the required minimum percentage of
their total energy supply. If, however, the
niche company sells all its certificates above
the percentage it retains to meet its
own government targets, it results in a net
status quo for the energy market. No extra
demand for renewable energy supply is
generated, as total demand for renewable
energy is matched across the board. Trading
of certificates at this level will mean that
the net average of renewable energy supply
will remain stable nationwide.
However, if those suppliers that produce
more than the minimum requirement set
aside a further percentage of their
certificates, above and beyond the required
minimum (i.e. they "retire" their certificates), and refuse to sell them on,
additional demand for renewable energy
sources is generated..
When trying to evaluate which tariff is
'better', it's best to look at what green
tariffs are trying to achieve. Ultimately the
aim is to increase the amount of renewable
energy supply there is in the country. By
increasing the influence of renewable
energy sources, it is possible to lessen the
influence of the environmentally degrading
sources, fossil fuels and nuclear power. It's
for this reason that energy-based tariffs are
the most positive choice.
ELECTRICITY COMPANIES WE RECOMMEND
Good Energy supplies 100 per cent renewable electricity to homes and businesses in England, Scotland and Wales. For every unit of electricity used by a Good Energy customer, Good Energy promises to supply the national grid with a unit of electricity generated from renewable power sources including wind, running water and the sun. Therefore every new consumer means Good Energy sources more renewable power. This is verified by an annual green audit carried out by an independent firm of chartered accountants. In addition, Good Energy supports micro-generators with its Home Generation Scheme, which pays people for all the electricity they generate from small renewable generators. A new website to support people who want to generate their own power has been launched by Good Energy at www.generateyourown.co.uk. Good Energy owns the UK's first-ever wind farm at Delabole in Cornwall and has over 1,000 investors, most of whom are Good Energy customers. They recently opened www.goodenergyshop.co.uk for those looking for the complete low carbon lifestyle. Good Energy is a founder member of The Ethical Company Organisation's Ethical Accreditation scheme and as such is audited every year. 0845 456 1640
Green Energy UK
Green Energy supplies electricity from renewable and green sources to customers all over the UK. Their energy comes from conventional renewable sources such as small scale hydro, solar and wind generators, but also from alternative green sources, for example electricity produced using the methane gas which is generated at landfills, as the waste breaks downs, or from farm animal manure, or biomass,. This also reduces CO2 pollution by preventing the gas being released into the atmosphere. Another source of the electricity supplied by Green Energy are Combined Heat and Power plants which sell their surplus electricity. Green Energy currently offer two tariffs: Deep Green, a tariff that matches 100% of the electricity used by the customer with a supply from a renewable power; and Pale Green, which comes from OFGEM approved low impact CHP generators. Through their share scheme Green Energy will give their first 100,000 customers the option to receive fully paid up shares in Green Energy. Green Energy has been a long-standing member of the Ethical Accreditation scheme and as such is regularly audited every 12 months. Tel. 0800 954 0675
Ecotricity is an independent energy supplier that invests in large wind turbines. At Swaffham in Norfolk it built the country's first multi-megawatt wind turbine, which alone provides enough energy for 3,000 people. The renewable energy certificates earned by Ecotricity are sold on to help other energy suppliers meet their government targets. The profits earned from the tariff and the sale of certificates are then used to build further wind farms and turbines. Ecotricity have been particularly pro-active in building new power sources of renewable energy â€“ this helps increase the amount of renewable energy available to the UK market, and they also support micro-generation project. Ecotricity offers two tariffs: 'New Energy' which comes from a mix of their own wind farms and brown energy sources, and 'New Energy Plus' which is a 100% green tariff.
08000 302 302
Final thoughts: the future
Despite the differences in the available green
tariffs, and the ranking of one above another,
switching to any green supply is a positive
step to take. It is a win-win situation both for
the environment and your peace of mind.
Whether or not you choose a fund-based
tariff or an energy-based tariff, what you are
doing when you switch is registering your
support for more environmental awareness
from the energy suppliers. This will help
encourage those suppliers who currently do
not offer a green tariff to start one, which is
clearly a good thing.
Your vote for a cleaner energy supply also
has an impact on the future of government
policy. For example, since 2005 all energy
suppliers have had to disclose the exact sources
of their electricity and how much came
from renewables (their "energy mix"). Green energy supplier
Good Energy decided to spearhead this
disclosure and showed the market the way
forward by making their sources available to
the public in advance. So by supporting green
energy suppliers you can also show your
support for government reform.
It has never been easier to switch
your energy supplier than it is now.
All it takes is a simple phone call or
compare further and switch through
The Good Shopping Guide's recommended
You can start helping to create a cleaner
planet. So why wait?
OUR GUIDE TO ENERGY EFFICIENCY
A standard three bedroom detached house, without
any forms of insulation, can cost up to £500
a year to heat. With proper energy efficiency measure
taken it is entirely possible to halve this cost.
It’s not only through heating that your
energy efficiency in the home can be improved.
Changes to your lighting and household appliances
can also help reduce the amount of energy you
During the cold winter months we all rely on
our heating to keep us warm and cosy. However,
having an energy inefficient heating system can
result in you spending more than you need to on
your heating costs. Here are some tips on how
you can improve your heating efficiency. Make
sure you have an effective method of heating control.
Boilers are unable to tell when you want heat
or hot water without a form of heating control.
If some form of heating control is installed you
can regulate when and where you need heat. Controlling
heat efficiently around the house can save you
up to 17% on your heating costs. If your boiler
is more the 15 years old you should think about
replacing it. New energy efficient Condensing
Boilers could save you up to 32% on your fuel
bills. Even without upgrading to a Condensing
Boiler, modern, more efficient boilers can still
save you up to 20%. In addition to this your local
Council may be able to provide a grant to help
you out. If you live in a small property, you
could also consider using energy efficient convection
heaters or gas heaters to heat your property rather
than relying on central heating.
In the average home you can expect your lighting
costs to account for 10-15% of your electricity
bill. With lighting accountable for such a sizeable
percentage of your costs, it seems only sensible
to invest in ways in which you can improve efficiency
around the house. With energy saving lightbulbs
now readily available, here’s some further
|Energy Saving Bulbs
Energy saving lightbulbs only use a quarter
of the energy that standard bulbs do. For this
reason they are available in much lower wattages
(see table). However the light from an energy
saving bulb is often radiated differently to a
conventional one,so you may need to choose an
equivalent higher wattage bulb than you are used
to achieve the same lighting effect. At the moment
energy saving lightbulbs tend to be more expensive
to buy than conventional ones, at around £5
for a 20W bulb. However the cost benefit makes
up for this extra initial outlay. For every conventional
bulb you replace with an energy saving one it
could save you up to £10 a year on your
electricity bill, making back the £5 spent
on the bulb and leaving you with an extra £5
in your pocket. To complement energy saving bulbs,
you could consider having energy saving fittings
in which to place them. These are little transformers
that fit into the base of the bulb which regulate
the amount of energy that is fed into it. For
the few milliseconds it takes for a bulb to light
the transformer provides a surge of energy. Once
a bulb is lit it requires far less power to stay
alight, so the fitting maintains the electricity
flow into the bulb at a very low level.
No matter how well you feel your household appliances
are running and how few problems they have given
you, they could still be extremely energy hungry
and inefficient. As a general rule, the older
your appliance the more it is going to cost to
run. For this reason, where possible it is best
to buy your fridges, cookers, dishwashers and
washing machines brand new as they will be the
most energy efficient. The saving you make on
a second- hand purchase will soon be outweighed
by the extra cost it takes to run the appliance.
When buying new appliances look out for the Energy
Efficiency Recommended logo. To find out more
about which appliances currently available are
listed as Energy Efficient, go to www.saveenergy.co.uk
and browse the extensive database of Energy Efficient
Bad insulation in the home can result in a considerable
heat loss. Most heat is lost through the walls
and the loft space. Fully insulating these spaces
can help reduce the amount of heat lost in the
home by more than 50%. The walls alone can be
responsible for up to 35% of the total heat wastage
in the home. Badly insulated walls can be one
of the major sources of heat loss in the home.
They could be costing you anywhere up to £200
extra per year. For this reason insulating the
walls of your home is one of the most efficient
ways to make a saving on your heating bills. If
you want to find out what you can do about adding
insulation to your walls, the first step is to
identify what kind of walls you have in your home.
Most houses built after 1930 have cavity walls.
To identify whether you have cavity walls you
can check by measuring their thickness at a door
or window. They are normally around 30cm thick,
this is comprised of an inner and outer layer,
and in-between them is a small air gap. To fill
your wall with insulation, small holes are drilled
into the outer or inner layer and insulation material
is injected into the air gap. This work has to
be carried out by a professional, and will be
guaranteed for 25 years by the CIGA or Cavity
Insulation Guarantee Agency. The cost of the work
should be recovered within five years in the savings
you make on your heating costs. There are also
grants and offers available to help cover the
cost of the work.
As air gets hotter it becomes less dense, and
as a result of this rises above cold air, which
is denser. This is the reason why it is key to
make sure any heat lost through the roof is minimised.
Most houses have some space under the roof, normally
the loft. Insulating the loft properly can save
around 25% on your heating costs. You can insulate
your loft easily yourself, and requires no professional
work to be done. By simply adding a 250mm (10-inch)
thick layer of insulation the job is done. The
material that you need to insulate the roof can
easily be picked up at a local DIY store or builder’s
Drafts coming through the edge of the skirting
board or up through the cracks in the floor can
make a room feel cold and unwelcoming. Sealing
up these cracks with a regular tube sealant can
save you up to £10 in your heating bills.
To make your floors warmer and to stop the chilly
drafts coming up through them you could invest
in some under floor insulation, which can help
save a further £25. Remember, if you fit
the insulation yourself, not to block any air
bricks on the outside wall. These help maintain
adequate ventilation under the floor, and without
this it’s likely that the floorboards will
start to rot.
Heat that escapes through the space under your
doors or windows also accounts for a considerable
amount of heat lost in the home, as much as 20%.
Draft excluders come in many different materials,
from brushes to rubber strips. Without double-glazing
these can be a cheap and easy way to prevent heat
escaping from your home. Do remember that in some
rooms ventilation is very important, especially
if they have solid fuel burners, gas fires or
boilers within. Badly insulated hot water pipes
and water tanks can result in 75% more energy
use than those that are fully insulated. British
Standard water tank “jackets” can
be found at all good DIY stores and are easy to
fit. The saving you make on your water heating
bills means the cost can be recouped within a
year. If you already have insulation on your water
tank check that its at least 75mm (3 inches) thick.
If it isn’t it could be a good idea to replace
it with a new one to make yours as energy efficient
as it can be. For further information on improving
insulation you can get in touch with your local
Energy Efficiency Advice Centre. If you don’t
know where this is you can phone 0845 727 7200
or search on the Energy Savings Trust website
Double-glazing your windows is an ideal way to
reduce heat loss in the home by up to 20%. Whilst
it is an expensive option, it should definitely
be considered if you are planning on renovating
your window frames. Not only does double (or even
triple-) glazing help prevent heat loss but can
also stop condensation and reduce noise levels
of sounds from outside. If you are on a tight
budget you can always fit secondary glazing, which
is less expensive than fitting brand new double-glazing
and can still result in annual savings of around
QUICK ENERGY SAVING TIPS TO PUT INTO
- If you are too warm at home, turn down your
thermostat by 1°C. This could save you up
to 10% on your heating bill. If you are planning
to go away over the winter for any extended
period of time, turn the thermostat down to
a low level. You can turn it down as far as
you want, but be sure to leave it high enough
so the house doesn’t freeze. Your total
saving could be as much as £30 a year.
- There is no need to have the hot water come
out of your taps at scalding temperatures. For
most people a setting of 60°C/140°F
on their cylinder thermostat will be more than
enough for taking baths and washing-up. Doing
this can save you as much as £10 a year.
- Never leave the taps running and the plughole
unblocked. If you are washing up or using hot
water, try not to do it with the plughole open.
The cost for hot water can soon mount up and
leaving the plughole open can flush money away
with the wastewater.
- Always close your curtains in the evening.
Your curtains are a valuable form of insulation.
If you close your curtains you can stop extra
heat escaping out through the window into the
cold night air.
- Try not to use electric lights when there
is a good source of natural light available.
Open your curtains or blinds fully rather than
switch on an electric light. If you do use an
electric light make sure you remember to switch
it off when you leave the room.
- Electrical devices such as Television and
Computers consume almost as much electricity
in their standby mode as when switched on. Try
to switch off all devices of this nature if
you can. Obviously if this will have an effect
on the appliance’s memory settings then
leaving it on standby can be unavoidable’
so check the appliance’s manual before
you switch it off.
- Defrosting your fridge and freezer can help
it run more efficiently; try to do this as often
as possible. Also try not to leave the fridge
or freezer door open for more than a few seconds
as the cold air will escape, meaning the appliance
will have to work harder to cool the air inside
down again when you do close the door.
- It’s important to try to make sure you
run a full load in your washing machine and
tumble dryer. If this is impossible, use the
economy wash settings or run at a low heat.
Modern washing powders will work just as effectively
at 40°C as at 60°C. These rules can
apply to dishwashers too; try to run a full
load every time and use the lowest temperature
- When cooking try to use the best pot or pan
available for the job, and match this with the
right cooking ring. Ideally the base of the
pot should just cover the edges of the ring.
If you are using a gas hob the flames should
only heat the bottom of the pot, any flames
that rise up the sides of the pot will be wasted
- When boiling water in a kettle, there is no
need to fill it all the way to the top if you
are not going to use all the water. Fill the
kettle with enough water to cover the element,
but not more than you plan to use.
- A tap left dripping for a day can waste as
much water as it would take to run a good sized
bath. This is needless waste, especially if
the water is hot. Make sure you firmly close
all taps when you have finished with them.
- If you are used to taking baths, consider
switching to a shower. An ordinary shower uses
less than a half of the water that a bath does.
You can easily buy devices that convert your
bath taps into a shower.