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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Green Electricity

It is many years ago now that I changed to the Power2 renewable energy plan provided by my existing electricity company, Southern Electric.

I have always made an effort to reduce the amount of electricity I use, choosing low energy light bulbs, turning off lights when we leave a room, drying my washing on a washing line rather than using the tumble dryer - you know the kind of thing.

So, a couple of years ago when my electricity provider wrote to me promoting the 'Better Plan' - a plan that rewards customers for reducing their electricity consumption year on year, I thought yes, why not?

Take a look at their website and see what you think..... Click on the tab 'Being Green', click on the tab 'Go One Step Further'.  I don't think I realised that by 'going one step further' I was actually coming off my renewable electricity plan.

So I switched plan, my electricity monitor arrived and I set about consistently trying to look in to making sure I was saving electricity wherever I could. And even though I thought I was already careful about saving electricity, I managed to reduce my energy consumption by 20% in a year.

Now, I'm not knocking this altogether, because I did make those savings and it was in part down to the awareness raising that the 'Better Plan' information provided, though, I'll also point out that some of it happened by accident -

1. My kettle (a hand me down I acquired when I went to college, dare I say it, 20 years ago) blew up and we had to get a new one.  Electrical items are manufactured to be more economical these days.

2. My computer was so old and slow that I decided to switch to a laptop -  second hand but only a couple of years old and much whizzier than what I was making do with. Laptops use less energy than desktops.

But other little things that probably helped were trying to be more organised with the washing so that I didn't leave it languishing in the washing machine when it was finished.  That way less of it needed ironing.  Oh, and trying not to boil the kettle three times before I actually remembered to pour the hot water on to my tea.

So, I'm not suggesting that Better Plan isn't a good idea - rewarding people for using less electricity  has to be a good idea. But, two years in to being a 'Betterplan' customer I enquired about companies that gave cash-back for the energy generated by my solar hot water system and contacted Good Energy.   They did a price comparison for me and although the daily rate was lower, the unit price was just slightly higher.

Readers of this blog will probably already know that my main focus is to write about greener living that doesn't cost more than the non-green option, so at that point I decided not to change, as I thought I was on a green energy plan with my current provider. However, the nice lady I was talking to at Good Energy said,  "You might like to subscribe to our news letter where we publish our prices because we constantly strive to compete and we hate it when we can't." As a parting question, she asked me if I was already on a green tariff.  

"Yes," I said, and that's when I starting asking questions.  

I checked the website to see if it said that Better Plan was renewable energy.  It didn't.  But, it did say 'Go one step further'. The person I spoke to at Southern Electric explained to me that although Better Plan wasn't renewable energy, it was green because the focus was on helping people cut down on their usage.  I don't dispute that, but, I felt a little cheated.

The cynic in me thought perhaps there had been so much demand for the Power2 renewable energy tariff with the price promise of not being more expensive than conventional tariffs that they needed a ruse to get people off their renewables given that their energy mix is only 10% renewables, but surely not?

For me, one step further has to be 100% renewables, so I switched. 

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