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What is green energy?

Green energy, also referred to as renewable energy, is generated from natural and renewable resources that can be replenished — as opposed to being generated by finite resources such as oil or coal.

Examples of green energy include solar energy, wind energy, water power (hydroelectricity) and biomass.

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.

To meet this demand, many energy suppliers now offer green energy tariffs that offer some level of renewable energy.

What kinds of green energy are there?

  • 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 energy.

  • Biomass — Involves burning organic materials to produce electricity.

  • Geothermal — The use of the natural heat below the earth’s surface to generate electricity or heat homes directly.

Can I switch to a green energy tariff?

These days, many energy suppliers offer at least one "green" tariff, but what that means can be quite complicated.

There are three potential ways they 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.

  • Green investment: This means your supplier funds renewable energy infrastructure or projects. These days, most green suppliers do this in addition to the above.

  • Carbon offset: Your supplier offsets the CO2 emissions from the energy you use by planting trees or investing in CO2 reducing projects.

Most green energy plans offer 100% renewable electricity, while many suppliers are beginning to also offer a level of “green gas” by turning organic matter into biomethane.

No matter how a renewable tariff defines "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.

How do I find the best green energy plan?

It’s easy to shop around for a cheaper energy deal with a comparison site like 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.

But if you’re particularly interested in switching to a renewable energy plan, it’s likely you’re interested in more than just the cost of a green energy plan. With Uswitch you can easily compare green energy suppliers with their plans sorted by price.

You can find out more about each plan’s green credentials by clicking on ‘plan info’.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a green energy plan?

One of the biggest advantages to renewable energy is that it is sustainable. One of the main causes of energy price rises, according to energy companies, is the rising cost of fuel on the wholesale market.

If your green energy supplier's power sources will never run out, then in theory, they will have little reason to hike the price of your energy bill.

Having said that, historically one of the major drawbacks of renewable energy is that it often costs more to produce the same amount of energy that you can get from fossil fuels. 

However, new technology and advancements are changing that, so you can now find some affordable green energy deals with up and coming suppliers.

Despite this, the cost to produce is the reason more established energy companies still get most of their energy from fossil fuels.

Some green energy tariffs can be the cheapest on the market so it’s always a good idea to run an energy comparison and compare what’s available.

If you want to find out what your current energy supplier's fuel mix is, check out our guide.

Do green energy plans cost more?

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.

Switch to a green energy tariff

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’.

Once you’ve chosen your new energy plan, we’ll handle the rest of the switching process for you. Your current and new suppliers will agree on a switching date and you’ll receive a welcome pack.

The whole energy switching process should be complete in around 17 days, which includes a 14-day cooling off period in case you change your mind about your green energy switch.

Green energy suppliers

If you decide to switch to a green energy plan, you'll have a range of renewable energy providers to choose from.

A number of specialist green energy suppliers have emerged in recent years, which only offer renewable energy for homes. These include Bulb, Octopus, Ecotricity and Green Energy UK.

Many larger suppliers offer at least one 100% green electricity plan, so you can choose a renewable energy plan from a big six provider (British Gas, E.ON, ScottishPower, npower, EDF Energy and SSE) without going to a specialist green energy company.

Generating your own renewable energy

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 energy in many ways:

  • Solar panels

  • Domestic wind turbines

  • Domestic hydro power

  • Anaerobic digestion/biomass

  • 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.

Green energy guides

The world’s most eco-friendly tourist attractions, revealed

Which tourist attractions from around the world are making the biggest effort to ‘go green’?

london underground train pulling into a tube platform

Sustainable Mobility Index: Which European cities have the best sustainable transport system?

Which cities in Europe are making the biggest strides to green mobility?

Renewable energy sources

The most common types of renewable energy in the UK, including wind, solar, hydro and mroe

More info

What is the renewable heat incentive (RHI)?

This Uswitch guide tells you everything you need to know about the benefits of the renewable heat incentive (RHI) and how to apply for the scheme (updated for 2020)

More info

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