Switching to green energy has never been easier

Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigners will be in the City Centre this Saturday (11th December) inviting members of the public to take the 'Climate Challenge' and switch their electricity supplier to one that sources renewable energy, as a way of taking personal action to tackle global warming.

One thing that everyone can do to combat climate change is to encourage the growth of renewable energy. Many electricity companies offer a 'green' tariff, one that either uses renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, biomass, and solar or hydroelectric schemes, or that puts money into a fund that supports renewable energy developments.[1]

As the latest round of international climate talks (COP10) began in Buenos Aires this week, new research revealed that scientists are more than 90 per cent confident that human influence at least doubled the risk of last year's European heat-wave.[2]

Friends of the Earth warned the Government this week that unless immediate and sustained reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are delivered, Prime Minister Tony Blair's credibility in leading international efforts on climate change risks being severely undermined. Carbon dioxide emissions have not declined since Labour came to power in 1997.[3]

Birmingham Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Rob Pilling said:

"This week will see national and international developments taking place on the climate change front, with climate talks in Buenos Aires and the UK Government's review of its Climate Change Programme. We all need to get behind politicians and business and support real action to combat global warming. One way we can all do this is by switching to a green electricity tariff."

Mr Pilling continued:

"Friends of the Earth recommends five tariffs offered by companies that only sell green electricity, or produce green electricity in a large percentage of the power stations they own. It's easy to switch: just call your chosen supplier, fill in an application form, and the switch to a cleaner, greener power source happens after the new supplier has read your meter."

For more information about the Climate Challenge and other ways in which you can take part, either as an individual or an organisation, call 0207 490 1555 or visit www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/

Editor's Notes

[1] By law, all electricity suppliers must prove they have bought or generated the equivalent of 0.03 units (3%) of green electricity for every unit they sell. Green electricity tariffs achieve a much higher percentage.

Any domestic customer can switch to a green electricity tariff and every unit of green electricity generated comes with a certificate of proof that it is green. Some companies keep the certificates for the extra green electricity they have supplied to you while others sell the certificates to other electricity companies who then use them to meet their legal obligations. Keeping the certificates is the best option for the future of green electricity as certificates are limited in number and by retaining them companies are increasing demand, which encourages new development.

The green electricity market is dynamic; companies change the tariffs they offer, and the companies themselves change names and ownership quite frequently. To keep up to date with these changes, Friends of the Earth have produced an on-line guide: www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/press_for_change/choose_green_energy/index.html.

The guide is available as a printout: call 0207 566 1673 for a copy.

Since Friends of the Earth launched the guide a few years ago in a league table version, they have consistently recommended Unit[e]. Although this company is now called Good Energy, the tariff has not changed and is still recommended along with four other tariffs.

[2] 'Human contribution to the European heat-wave of 2003', Stott, Stone and Allen, Nature 432, pp610-614 (2nd December 2004). Abstract available at www.nature.com

[3] The Government launched a public consultation on changes to its Climate Change Programme on Wednesday 8th December. A Government review of the Programme published on the same day revealed that:

  1. The UK will miss its target of a 20 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 (from 1990 levels). Instead current policies are likely to lead to a reduction of around 14 per cent. Much of this saving is a result of the 'dash for gas' under the last Conservative Government.
  2. The UK is on target to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol for reducing all greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. However, it is widely accepted that more substantial cuts are needed and that the Kyoto targets were the result of political wrangling rather than a scientific consensus about the level of reductions needed. Negotiations on deeper cuts under the Kyoto Protocol start in earnest in 2005.

To deliver the necessary cuts in carbon dioxide emissions the UK Government needs to address the following sectors:

  • Clean up coal: Energy production from coal-fired power stations has increased since 2000, representing around a third of electricity production. The fastest measure for making significant reductions in carbon dioxide would be to phase-out these inefficient plants and replace them with cleaner sources (gas, renewable energy, bio-fuels and potentially new more efficient coal technologies).
  • Energy efficiency: The commerce and domestic sector is responsible for a third of carbon dioxide emissions. The introduction by the Treasury of financial incentives to reduce energy consumption, alongside grant schemes for energy efficiency, could result in considerable savings.
  • Transport: the recent Transport White Paper and Aviation White Paper both forecast growth in emissions from these sectors. Stronger incentives for buying fuel-efficient vehicles, support for the widespread introduction of bio-fuels and financial penalties for using gas guzzling cars and short-haul flights are needed to reduce emissions in these sectors.