What source?

Where does your electricity come from? I don’t mean, what’s the name of the company that supplies it, I mean, how is it generated – coal, oil, gas, wind, solar, tidal…? And does your supplier tell you?

A few years back, we switched suppliers – we had originally signed up for a ‘green tariff’ from one of the big six suppliers in the UK, but decided to switch in order to support one of the smaller companies whose focus is on green electricity and who are investing in renewables. Interestingly, this change has helped us financially. Because our supplier, Ecotricity, produces most of its energy from renewable sources, we are buffered from the vagueries of oil prices, and our bills are not rising, whilst customers of the big electricity generators are seeing significant increases.

In addition, our supplier is proud of their achievements, whilst acknowledging that they are not perfect. They are investing in renewables directly and the impact on their supplies, in comparison to the UK overall, can be seen in this table:

Fuel mix

Fuel mix

Perhaps my favourite part of their website is the page that tells me how the UK is doing in terms of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel mix right now:

Current UK energy generation and carbon emissions

Current UK energy generation and carbon emissions (click on the picture to go to the live web page)

The traffic lights on the left tell you whether it’s a good time to use electricity in terms of carbon emissions and the table on the right shows the current contributions of the different fuel sources. I’m not sure whether there are similar tools available for other countries (anyone know?). Our situation is slightly more complex than only using big appliances when the traffic lights go green because on sunny days our solar panels generate lots of electricity and it is best to use this directly when possible, but when it’s dull or dark, this tool is going to be really useful.

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14 Comments

  1. In Mid-Missouri/USA I’m giving you a link. Not sure it’s comparable to your country’s clearer picture. Seems like we get a lot of verbal talk compared to your ‘real’ numbers. http://www.kcpl.com/about-kcpl/environmental-focus Lots of food for thought though. Great blog post.

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    • Thanks… I did find a few numbers there: 85% from coal and no mention of the proportion from solar, suggesting that it’s negligible. I’m very interested to see comparisons around the world. I’d love to see some real numbers from China…

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  2. I shall use this Jan, when the sun isn’t shining and preventing us from using the grid. When it is very windy our turbine works but it does need to be very windy to get a decent output from it. – Even if the company hadn’t gone bust I wouldn’t have one unless I could put it on a much higher pole now. The other thing I really like about Ecotricity is the bills which tell us how much we used per day over the period of the bill, how much we used the previous quarter and how much the same quarter the previous year.

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  3. We need something like that down here, but are held to ransom by the large energy companies. We have a lot less choice in who to buy our energy from…

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  4. Something wonderfully British about the phrasing: ‘Choose when to use: Not Quite’ 🙂 Obviously this is the UK as a whole, but do you know if there are country specific grid readings? Pretty sure Ecotricity is up here in Scotland…

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    • Since we have a National Grid, I assume that the data applies to Wales, Scotland and England combined. I do have visions of us all poised to flip a switch as soon as the traffic lights go green!

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      • “This is a good time” – can’t stop giggling at the phrasing. Time to use the kettle, ha! Thank you for the new pass time 🙂

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  5. We switched to Good Energy years ago, when we discovered that the big energy company we were with wasn’t buying extra electricity with our ‘green tariff’, they were just using our higher payments to help fulfill their legal obligation to source whatever percentage was laid down from renewables. I felt swindled, so I switched to someone who was committed to renewable generation.

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    • What despicable behaviour from the big companies! Investing in renewables is the way forward for the environment and financially…. and Ecotricity is now 100% green in terms of electricity generation, just like Good Energy – how great to have two such companies in the UK.

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  6. Also interesting is http://whichgreen.org, which shows how many pound sper customer is spent investing in new green energy sources.
    British Gas £13.29
    EDF £17.98
    Good Energy £25.54
    Eon £27.29
    Npower £35.58
    Scottish Power £37.33
    SSE £51.59
    Ecotricity £265.93

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  7. We are powered by hydro electricity here in Northern Tasmania but it is funny that we pay SO much more than the rest of Australia that feeds off coal…

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