Whenever I tell the story of the Good Energy’s inception, I start with an anecdote about the entire renewables industry meeting in a room above a pub.
Back in 1999, setting up a business that wanted to supply 100% renewables was a borderline ludicrous proposition — one that investors didn’t want to back, which led to funding coming from customers. Customers that believed in a renewable future.
So, the news that one of the UK’s ‘Big Six’ energy providers — one with close to five million customers — is ditching fossil fuels to focus on wind power, feels like a significant breakthrough.
However, we do need to proceed with caution. If you look at the headlines — “Scottish Power is first energy giant to go 100% green” in The Times, “Scottish Power now uses the wind for 100% of its electricity” in The Mirror and even “Scottish Power to use 100% wind power after Drax sale” from the BBC — you would be forgiven for thinking that all of Scottish Power’s electricity supply will be coming from renewables. In actual fact, that is not the case.
Good Energy has been referenced in some of these pieces, for example in The Independent comparing us as a company that ‘already’ offers totally renewable tariffs, implying that is what Scottish Power is going to be doing.
One of the company’s key messages in the announcement is that it has ‘enough wind to power 1.2 million homes.’ A significant amount by any estimation, but it has close to 5 million customers. So Scottish Power will still need to buy a large amount of power from gas and coal generation to meet customers’ demand.
Unfortunately, the press’ reporting of the story fails to make this clear. Even in pieces where it is clarified later in the article, the headlines suggest if you switch to Scottish Power, your electricity supply will be 100% renewable.
This feeds into a wider industry issue we are facing, consumer confusion about green energy tariffs. Whilst the misleading reporting of Scottish Power’s news is presumably accidental (the result of eagerness to report a good news story perhaps?), many of the existing ‘100% renewable’ suppliers are cynically misleading customers. Or at the very least being disingenuous, in claiming that their tariffs support renewable generation when in fact they are buying wholesale ‘brown’ power and labelling it green with cheap certificates.
On the positive side, there are still companies, like Good Energy, which invest in renewable development, as well as research into the technologies that will form part of our decentralised and decarbonised energy future. And above all, provide 100% renewable power by purchasing from independent renewable generators here in the UK. This is our future, pushing on and developing an energy system where 100% renewable is delivered everywhere.