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Green energy, also referred to as renewable energy, is generated from natural and renewable resources that can be replenished and do not harm the environment — as opposed to being generated by finite resources such as oil or coal that also produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Green energy can include both electricity and gas, but commonly when people refer to green energy they’re thinking about renewable electricity. Examples of green electricity include solar energy, wind energy, water power (hydroelectricity) and biomass.
Green energy also includes green gas or biomethane. This is gas that is produced through the process of anaerobic digestion and does not produce carbon emissions in the way natural gas does.
Green energy is a particularly appealing concept to many people because, unlike fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, renewable energy sources will not run out and it will not harm the environment in the same way generation from fossil fuels does.
Because of this increased demand, green energy suppliers are no longer a niche concept. Most energy suppliers now offer green energy tariffs that offer some level of renewable energy.
Wind energy — The UK has many wind farms, both on and offshore. Read more about the pros and cons of wind energy here.
Hydroenergy — Also known as hydropower, this form of renewable energy uses water turbines to generate electricity.
Tidal energy — Another form of hydroenergy that utilises tides to run water turbines.
Solar energy — About a million households in the UK have solar panels for their home. These panels convert light from the sun into electricity and allow homes to generate their own green energy.
Biomass — Involves burning organic materials to produce electricity.
Geothermal — The use of the natural heat below the earth’s surface to generate green electricity or heat homes directly.
Most green energy plans offer 100% renewable electricity, while many suppliers are also beginning to offer a level of “green gas” by turning organic matter into biomethane. Green gas comes from a process called anaerobic digestion, where bacteria is used to break down food or farm waste to produce gas. This green gas is carbon neutral as it is produced from materials that absorb CO2 that is then released back when the gas burns.
Hopefully in the future all gas can come from renewable sources but at the moment, there are not enough biomethane plants in the UK to make it a cost effective alternative to fossil fuels. This means suppliers still have to use natural gas to make sure customer demand is met. Some suppliers invest in additional carbon offset schemes to make sure the natural gas used is carbon neutral, even where green gas is not available.
energy suppliers offer at least one "green" tariff, but what that means can be quite complicated.
There are three potential ways suppliers can offer green energy tariffs:
Energy match: Your energy supplier matches some or all of the electricity you use by producing renewable energy that they feed into the National Grid.
Buying renewable energy: Your energy supplier agrees to buy electricity from particular renewable generators.
Green investment: This means your supplier funds renewable energy infrastructure or projects.
Some suppliers also offer to additionally offset the CO2 emissions from the energy you use by planting trees or investing in CO2 reducing projects.
No matter how renewable energy suppliers define "green energy", the good news is, the more households that switch to a green energy deal, the more renewable energy gets generated or invested in.
We know green energy can be complicated and it is not always easy to find out what makes a tariff green. Thankfully, we've launched an independently verified Green Tariff Accreditation Scheme that helps you pick the right green energy tariff for you. Our independent panel of experts has reviewed the green tariffs currently on the market and put them into three simple categories so you can confidently choose a green energy plan that's right for you. You can find more detail here.
It's easy to shop around for the best green energy deal with Uswitch. Simply enter your postcode and a few details about your energy usage and we’ll show you the energy plans available in your area, including renewable energy deals. You'll see a badge next to each green tariff which will tell you whether it's received Gold, Silver or Bronze Green Accreditation.
One of the biggest advantages to renewable energy is that it is sustainable. Using renewable energy is better for the environment and the more people choose green tariffs, the more renewable energy will be produced.
Renewable energy is now much more reliable and its availability is increasing every year, making it a cheap alternative to traditional, fossil fuel backed energy.
Having said that, more still needs to be done in increasing renewable generation and renewable energy uptake and some suppliers are contributing to achieving that in the future. When you choose Uswitch Gold Standard Green Tariff, you will be supporting that increase in future use of renewable energy.
It’s a common misconception that renewable energy plans are more expensive than other types of tariff. Green energy technology is advancing rapidly, meaning renewable energy is cheaper to produce than ever before. This means that green energy plans can be among the cheapest on the market.
If you’re looking to switch from a standard variable tariff, a fixed green energy deal is likely to be cheaper than what you’re currently paying for your gas and electricity on a non-green tariff.
Some green tariffs may be more expensive than others, depending on the level of additional investment suppliers are putting into renewable energy. You can decide how green you want your tariff to be with Uswitch Green Accreditation, which separates the tariffs based on their green credentials so you can pick one that suits your needs and your budget.
Ready to make the switch to a green energy plan? It couldn’t be easier with Uswitch.
Run an energy comparison below and look out for the ‘green plan’ badge on your results table. You can also filter the results by renewable energy plans. In ‘plan features’ on the results page select ‘green plans’. You can choose from Gold, Silver or Bronze accredited plans, which have been categorised based on the amount of renewable energy suppliers directly buy and the level of investment they are making to support the growth of renewable energy.
Once you’ve chosen your new green energy plan, we’ll handle the rest of the switching process for you. Your new renewable energy supplier and your current supplier will agree on a switching date and you’ll receive a welcome pack.
Under the Energy Switch Guarantee, the whole energy switching process should be complete within 21 days, which includes a 14-day cooling off period in case you change your mind about your green energy switch.
If you decide to switch to a green energy plan, you'll have a range of renewable energy providers to choose from. Most well-known and smaller suppliers now offer some form of renewable tariff, so the list of green energy suppliers in the UK is getting longer all the time.
Aside from switching to a green energy plan, you can also get involved in renewable energy by generating your own.
Depending on the resources available to you in your home, it could be possible to generate your own domestic electricity in many ways:
Domestic wind turbines
Domestic hydro power
If you are thinking about generating your own renewable electricity, there might be incentives that you could benefit from. Have a read here about what Ofgem offers.
Some customers can also generate own heating, using one of the following methods:
Air to water heat pumps
Ground to water heat pumps
If you are able to generate your own domestic heating using one of these sources, you may be eligible for the domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI). The RHI offers financial support for owners of renewable heating systems in quarterly payments over seven years. You can find out more about the renewable heat incentive in our guide.
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† As of 22/06/2019, Uswitch scored 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 3,444 reviews on customer review site Feefo.