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16 Aug 2021

Green energy tariff claims to be investigated

New government investigation aims to stop 'greenwashing' of renewable electricity deals

Millions of us choose renewable electricity tariffs to try to do our bit for the planet. But now the government is examining how energy firms describe their green tariffs in an effort to stamp out 'greenwashing'.

It says it will decide whether the current rules about what can be called a green tariff are fit for purpose.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, said: 'I want people to know that when they sign up to a green tariff, they are investing in companies that make a conscious choice to invest in renewable energy.'

Know the differences between green energy suppliers.

How green is your renewable electricity tariff?

Energy companies can label tariffs as 'green' or '100% renewable' even if some of the electricity they supply comes from fossil fuels.

That's as long as they offset the fossil fuel power by buying certificates called Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs).

So, for example, one energy firm's green tariff could be solely backed by REGO certificates, while another may own a solar farm or buy directly from renewable generators.

From looking at energy firms' websites, it can be tricky to tell exactly what you're buying.

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Renewable energy plans from the government

The review of green tariffs will look at:

  • whether the system for REGO certificates should be 'smarter'
  • whether households should get clearer information about their renewable tariffs.

For example, you could be given information about the type of renewable electricity, where it was generated and when.

It has asked for evidence to understand the problems and help decide how it should change the rules about green electricity tariffs.

Find out more:what is renewable energy?

Greenwashing fears

woman on the phone looking at an energy bill
The government isn't alone in being concerned about how green tariffs are marketed. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently announced draft guidelines for businesses making 'green' claims, including energy companies, to reduce the risk of misleading consumers.

Plus we raised concerns about whether 100% renewable electricity tariffs were as green as you think back in 2019.

Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy, said: 'We know that consumers want to make more sustainable choices, so it's good that the government is investigating concerns that some suppliers appear to be 'greenwashing' their energy tariffs, which could risk misleading customers.

'We believe there needs to be greater clarity on how renewable electricity is defined and marketed. If the government concludes that firms are not being upfront and transparent about their green credentials, it should take action to ensure people can make informed decisions about where to buy their energy from.'

How to be more sustainable with your energy use
Drying washing outside saves energy

Regardless of the electricity tariff you choose, try these tips to reduce your energy use and cut your carbon footprint:

  • Time your appliances to run outside of peak periods (typically breakfast time and early evening). Spikes in electricity use at these times make it more likely fossil fuel back-up will be needed in the grid.
  • If you have solar panels, use electricity when the sun is shining and they're generating power.
  • Don't leave gadgets on standby. Turn them off instead.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it's full.
  • Dry clothes outside in warm weather, rather than using the tumble dryer.