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Come clean on green

To celebrate the launch of V2 of the Sustainable Energy Futures website, I’m also starting what I hope will be a regular blog. My aim to cast my eye back over the past week and see what sustainable energy themes emerge. I’m aiming for a “nicely irreverent” style, as my weekly missive was generously described during my UKERC days.

First, a huge thanks to all who have reacted, commented and provided advice on V1 of the website. You very politely told me that my lovely glorified CV was perhaps not customer-centred enough and that I might want to explain what I’m selling. Who would have thought it! I’ve found the comments inspirational, and it has helped me rethink the website. So whilst I might need a week or so to build up the energy to change anything again, comments are still welcome.

So what’s been in the news this week? Well, it was certainly windy on Monday! Yet another new record for wind power, hitting a staggering 17.6 GW and beating February’s Beast from the East. That said, power prices have been quite high for a while now. I’m an Octopus Agile (import and export) customer, and since November, I’ve been paying 9 p/kWh. That’s pretty cheap compared to standard variable tariffs, but bear in mind for large chunks of last year I was paying more like 6 p/kWh. The upside is that I have been paid around 12 p/kWh for my solar and battery exports over the same period. I assume that reason for high prices is low-wind over the last few months – is that right, folks?

With all this lovely renewable energy blowing around, you’d think that customers should be able to find great green tariffs. Not so, according to Scottish Power and Good Energy. They are calling on all energy suppliers to “Come clean on green”. They cite research from Baringa that suggests one-third of electricity supplied through green tariffs is greenwashed. This is an issue I’ve been personally involved with, firstly at Ofgem, and more recently in my role on the Uswitch green accreditation independent expert panel. Uswitch’s accreditation scheme has three levels, with gold being the highest. Gold requires 100% of the electricity to be bought from renewable generators under power purchase agreements and 10% of green gas. The scheme is already differentiating green tariffs, and so far only Good Energy (all their tariffs) and British Gas (one tariff) have passed the bar.

There is a latent demand for truly green products, with the the environment is high on many of our minds - BEIS research has shown that 81% of people are very or fairly concerned about climate change. So being able to buy products that are genuinely green is important. This is something the Competition and Markets Authority is examining across all products and services, including energy. It appears that it isn’t just what we want to buy, but also what we (or our pensions) invest in. According to the campaign Make My Money Matter, 60% of British pensioners want their hard-earned pensions to help fight climate change.

It feels like we are entering a critical period where our preferences and aspirations as customers are aligned with climate goals. Now we need to market to respond with genuinely green products that put that customer demand and investment to work.

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