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. Research by Compare the Market in June showed that one in seven UK households (14%) have already switched to a green tariff – while almost a third (31%) are thinking of switching to a supplier offering a renewable energy tariff.
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.
Frequently asked questions
Why should I choose green energy?
Regular energy, sometimes referred to as ‘brown energy’, comes from fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. With climate change issues increasingly becoming front of mind for environmentally conscious consumers, many people are considering ways in which to limit their carbon impact. ‘Going green’ with your energy can help the environment as renewable energy is pumped back into the National Grid – so it’s worth checking out.
However, there’s been press coverage about green energy providers and green tariffs not always being exactly what they might seem. And consumers have criticised the current labelling of green tariffs, saying some can be confusing. Of course, even electricity generated from renewable sources has some impact on the environment – think of the manufacture, installation and operation of the equipment. Some companies, therefore, also give details of the overall carbon content of their electricity in a drive 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.
How do I compare renewable energy?
We’ll include green tariffs in the list of plans when you complete your quote. They’ll be shown alongside all the other great deals in your results – so you don’t have to worry about specifically ‘going green’ with your search criteria.
You’ll also be able to read about the supplier and see features explaining how green they are, simply by clicking on ‘more details’ on each recommended tariff.
Suppliers can offer up to 100% green energy. If they offer a mix of energy (some renewable and the rest from traditional sources), then they have to be up-front about the percentage mix so that you know what you’re getting.
There are two main types of green tariff:
- green supply tariffs – suppliers who offer this type of tariff 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 that you review 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 or preferences.
How can I generate my own renewable energy?
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 electricity
For more on generating your own green energy, see the Energy Saving Trust.
Will making my own energy save me money?
Potentially, yes. Although there’s usually a 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, under a government scheme called feed-in-tariffs (FITs), you could be paid for the electricity you generate. If you’re eligible for FIT payments, for every unit of energy that you make yourself, you’ll receive what’s known as a ‘generation tariff’. Then, for every unit you don’t use and sell back to the National Grid, you’ll get a payment called an ‘export tariff’. The amount of money you’ll get back per unit of energy you create or sell is set by the energy regulator, Ofgem.
What’s a feed-in-tariff (FIT)?
The feed-in-tariff (FIT) is a government scheme for people who generate their own electricity using renewable or low carbon technology. Any excess energy created is sold back to the National Grid.
Most green technology aimed at households – such as solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectricity (energy from water) – will entitle you to FIT support. How much money you could get back via the FIT scheme depends on how much energy you generate, and how much you sell back to the National Grid. Payments can only be made by a FIT licensee. Most of the big energy suppliers are licensees but if in doubt, check.
Find out more about generating your own energy in our guide to solar power.
If I switch energy supplier, what will happen to my feed-in-tariff?
Switching energy supplier doesn’t mean anything has to change regarding your feed-in-tariff set-up.
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, although this won’t affect the amount of money you get because that’s set by Ofgem.
Just make sure before you switch, your new provider is happy to oblige and make the payments to you.