The majority of the UK's electricity comes from burning fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil and gas) which is a major contributor to climate change. Carbon-free sources, including nuclear and renewables, account for around one quarter of total electricity production. Renewable, or 'green' electricity, accounts for just 4% at present, but is set to grow over the coming years through policies such as the Renewables Obligation. This requires electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of renewable electricity.
Most energy suppliers offer 'green' electricity tariffs. These seek to support renewable energy. The two main types of offering are green supply tariffs and green funds.
A green supply tariff means that some or all of the electricity you buy is 'matched' by purchases of renewable energy that your energy supplier makes on your behalf. These could come from a variety of renewable energy sources such as a wind farm or hydroelectric power station. Your supplier should let you know what sources are included in the mix, and also what proportion of your supply is renewable. Some green tariffs (e.g. nPower Juice) even provide an export tariff, to maximise your income from micro-generation.
A green fund usually involves paying a premium to contribute to a fund that will be used to support new renewable energy developments. The cost of generating electricity from renewable energy sources can be slightly higher. Under this option, the existing electricity supply continues as normal, but your involvement will help to alter the mix of energy sources in future toward renewable sources.
There are many green offerings on the market, each supporting renewable energy in different ways. Some questions you might like to consider before choosing a green offering are: