What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy, also known as green energy, is energy that replenishes itself from nature, through clean sources that are more sustainable and better for the environment – such as solar, tidal or wind.
If you’re interested in renewable energy, you can look for a ‘green’ tariff or a ‘green supply tariff’. This refers to suppliers’ tariffs that will match your energy usage by giving back an equivalent in renewable energy to the National Grid.
Why should I choose green energy?
Standard energy, sometimes referred to as ‘brown energy’, comes from fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. With climate change increasingly important to environmentally conscious consumers, many people are considering how they can limit their carbon footprint. ‘Going green’ with your energy can help the environment, since renewable energy is pumped back into the National Grid.
However, there’s been some press coverage about green energy providers and green tariffs not always being exactly what they seem. Consumers have criticised the labelling of green tariffs for being confusing. It’s worth noting that even electricity generated from renewable sources has some impact on the environment – think of the manufacture, installation and operation of the equipment, for instance. To that end, some companies also give details of the overall carbon content of their electricity, in a bid to be more transparent.
You don’t have to get all your energy from renewable sources. You could compromise and find a supplier that supports environmental projects or sources just some of its energy from renewables, or funds other carbon-offset schemes. Alternatively, you could make your own renewable electricity by having solar panels installed.
Find out more in our guide to renewable energy.
How do I compare renewable energy?
We’ll include green tariffs when you complete a quote through Compare the Market. They’ll be shown alongside all the other great deals in your results – so you don’t have to specifically ‘go green’ with your search criteria.
You’ll also be able to read about the supplier and their energy features, to see how green they are. Simply click on ‘more details’, on each recommended tariff.
Some suppliers can offer up to 100% green energy. If they offer a mix of energy (some renewable and the rest from traditional sources), they have to be upfront about the percentage mix so you know exactly what you’re getting.
There are two main types of green tariff:
- green supply tariffs – suppliers will match your energy usage by giving back an equivalent in renewables to the National Grid.
- green funds – with these tariffs, you pay a premium and the supplier donates to support renewable energy projects.
It’s important to have a good read through any T&Cs before you go ahead and make a switch, just so you can be sure you’re getting the right green energy type for your needs.
Frequently asked questions
Are green energy tariffs cheaper?
Green energy tariffs tend to be more expensive than standard energy. But they’re becoming more competitively priced as the choice of deals grows. It’s always worth comparing energy suppliers with Compare the Market to see if a green tariff could save you money. In the end, it may not come down to cost but, rather, your energy preferences.
If you install renewable technology in your home, you might also be able to benefit from government schemes that promote the use of green energy.
How can I generate my own renewable energy?
‘Homemade’ green energy is becoming more and more accessible. Ways to do it include:
- Solar photovoltaic (solar PV) – these panels harvest the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity you can use at home.
- Solar thermal – these panels take the sun’s energy and use it to heat your water through coils that feed into your water cylinder.
- Wind turbines – you can use these to generate your own power when there’s enough of a breeze.
For more information on generating your own green energy, head to the Energy Saving Trust website.
Will making my own energy save me money?
Potentially, yes. Although there’s typically a fairly large initial cost for installing energy-generating technology, there are long-term savings to be had.
Firstly, you’ll save money on your bills because you’ll be making your own power. Plus, you could receive payments for any excess renewable electricity you generate and export to the grid, through the Government’s Smart Export Guarantee scheme.
If you’re considering generating your own heat through solar water heating, a biomass boiler or certain heat pumps, you may be eligible for the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive. This gives you financial support for seven years, based on the amount of renewable heat made by your heating system.
What’s a feed-in-tariff (FIT)?
The Government’s feed-in-tariff scheme gave households and businesses the opportunity to earn money back on the energy they generate, as well as selling any excess energy to the National Grid. However, the scheme closed to new applicants in March 2019.
It’s been succeeded by the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). Introduced at the start of 2020, this works in a similar way to the FIT scheme by offering payments to households who generate their own energy through solar, wind, water, micro-combined heat and power, and anaerobic digestion (a type of bioenergy that turns plant material into gas).
If you already receive a feed-in-tariff on your installation, this won’t be affected by the launch of SEG.
Learn more about generating your own solar energy in our guide to solar power.
If I switch energy supplier, what will happen to my feed-in-tariff?
Switching energy suppliers doesn’t mean anything has to change regarding your feed-in-tariff.
Your electricity supplier doesn’t have to be the same as the one that pays you under the FIT scheme – you can keep the two separate from each other. So, there’s nothing to stop you searching for a better deal on your energy and keeping your FIT agreement as it is.
Alternatively, you can switch your FIT agreement as well This won’t affect the amount of money you get because that’s set by Ofgem. Just make sure, before you switch, that your new provider is happy to make the payments to you.
Can I get green energy if I have a prepayment meter?
Yes, if you have a prepaid meter installed in your home you can still be environmentally friendly. You can compare green tariffs and potentially switch to a cheaper prepayment deal, although you’ll probably find there’s less choice available. You’ll get more options if you can move to a standard credit meter.
Can I charge my electric car with green energy?
If you have solar panels installed on the roof of your home, it’s possible to use the surplus energy to charge your electric car. Even with a standard domestic-sized solar PV system, you should be able to generate enough energy to power both your home and car. Doing this can help you save money on battery charging costs while further reducing your carbon footprint.
What do I need to get a quote?
Ideally, you’ll need to have a recent bill handy. This contains all the information you need to switch energy suppliers. If you can’t view one in your online account or you don't have a paper copy, you can still get a quick quote – but it will be based on estimations of your gas and electricity usage.
For a more accurate quote, you’ll need to know:
- the name of your current supplier and tariff
- how much energy you use (this can be in kilowatt-hours (kWh) or in pounds).
From the Energy team
“Don’t assume a tariff is green just because it’s being offered by a supplier with an eco-friendly-sounding name, as they might also offer non-renewable tariffs. When making a comparison, look out for terms like ‘renewable electricity’, ‘renewable gas’ and ‘carbon offset’.”
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^^Correct as of November 2020.
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^^^^For the 12 months ending November 2020, Compare the Market has helped over 460,000 customers to switch energy tariff.Start a quote