What is green energy?
These days, it seems like every energy company under the sun is shouting about their green energy credentials. But what even is green energy? And how do you know whether what you’re paying for is actually good for the planet? Well, worry not – we’re here to dispel the myths and deliver some home truths about what it really means to be green.
So what makes energy ‘green’?
Green energy can be a bit of vague term. It’s generally thought of to describe energy that has been created using natural resources. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
To be considered ‘green’, it can’t produce polluting greenhouse gases. So while fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are technically natural resources, they are by no means green because they produce huge amounts of CO2.
Green energy should also limit any practices that could be damaging to the environment, like mining, deforestation, or drilling. That means that some natural energy sources need to be properly regulated before they can be deemed green energy.
Take for example biomass, which is where natural wood waste, sawdust and organic agricultural waste (read: animal poo!) is burned to generate energy. While it is created from natural resources, the burning of this material releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, so it needs to be carefully managed in order to be considered a green energy source.
The same goes for geothermal energy, which uses the thermal energy stored just under the earth’s crust – that’s the stuff that creates natural hot springs in places like Iceland. The drilling required to access this energy can be harmful to natural habitats and the environment, so it needs to be closely monitored to be truly green.
Is green energy the same as renewable energy?
Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly being replenished, so there’s no fear that they’ll ‘run out’. Green energy and renewable energy are often used interchangeably, but there is actually a slight difference. While many renewable energy sources are green (the most notable ones being wind and solar power), not all of them are – and vice versa.
Hydropower, for example, is a renewable energy source which generates energy from fast-flowing water. But many people argue that the deforestation and construction needed to build huge hydro dams have a negative impact on local eco-systems. So tight controls are needed for it to be classed as green.
And what about ‘clean’ energy?
Clean energy is defined as an energy source that doesn’t produce any greenhouses gases – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s renewable or considered green.
Nuclear power is a great example of this. It doesn’t produce any carbon emissions which makes it ‘clean’, but the uranium and plutonium used to create nuclear reactions aren’t technically renewable – so they will eventually run out. And because small amounts of radioactive nuclear waste is created from the process, it often isn’t thought of as a green energy source.
But even when we take all the impacts of green, clean and renewable energy into account, they still emit far fewer carbon emissions and do less damage than traditional fossil fuels. And that’s better for the environment, better for our health and better for the future of our planet.
How do I know if my energy supply is actually green?
Every energy supplier needs to display their Fuel Mix, which will tell you exactly where their energy comes from, and crucially, if it generates CO2 emissions. If it does, that might be an indication that the energy they use isn’t 100% green.
It’s important to remember that even if your energy company supplies 100% green energy, once they feed it into the National Grid it gets mixed up with energy produced from other sources. So it’s impossible to say whether the electricity you use to charge your phone came from green sources or not. You can read more about how it works here.
For green energy you can trust, switch to our Green Futures tariff
Our Green Futures tariff only uses electricity created by wind and solar power, which ticks all three boxes: from natural sources, zero carbon emissions AND fully renewable! And it only uses carbon-neutral gas too – 10% of it comes from renewable biogas created by naturally decomposing waste, and the rest is offset by carbon cutting projects around the world.
It’s so green in fact, that it’s been awarded the gold standard by Uswitch – and we’re one of only three energy suppliers to achieve this accreditation.
But that’s not all. You’ll also protect up to 10 UK trees every year to help clean up our air and improve our natural habitats. And you’ll support some pretty incredible planet-friendly projects further afield too.