Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Monday of last week was the crucial PCC vote on changing our electricity supplier. I had given everyone a briefing from which my 1 September blog on this subject was written. I was recommending Ecotricity because it is investing in more renewable energy sources than any other company in this country and because it is significantly cheaper than Good Energy. To my surprise, despite the impending rise in the parish share and other strains on our budget, the general feeling was that if we're going to do this we should opt for whatever is genuinely greenest.

The coal and nuclear contributions in Ecotricity's so-called 100% green option caused concern among many. Eventually we voted not on the specific company but on whether to change our supplier and this was carried by a signficant majority. Three of us were then asked to go away, do more research and present the PCC with 'the greenest option' at the next meeting. I do have a concern that there is no such thing as 'the greenest option', only better options from different perspectives. However, it's great that we're now on track to make a really significant cut in our financial support for carbon production.

A quick note on banking - it seemed to make sense to refer this back to the diocese since so many of Oxford's churches bank with NatWest and we would clearly make a bigger impact if we acted together. I've e-mailed the diocese's social responsibility officer on this and await the finance officer's response.


  1. Hiya Joanna,

    Firstly - congratulations to you and the PCC for wanting to take action on climate change.

    I work for Ecotricity and thought I might be able to help clarify things... your understanding of our two tariffs in your September 1st post was correct.

    The 100% green tariff is made from our own electricity generated from our own wind turbines, topped up with green energy we buy from the open market.

    Buying existing green energy for a premium is what most green tariffs available on the market offer. This does nothing at all to reduce CO2 emissions or increase UK green energy capacity...

    There's a really good explanation about this on our website http://www.ecotricity.co.uk/about/how-green-is-your-electricity-company/

    If there is anything I can do to help you understand the choices available or answer any further questions - please let me know?

    Alternatively - Dale Vince - our MD has a blog at http://zerocarbonista.com - if you post your questions/thoughts there - you could get answers from the man himself.


  2. Hi Paul - thank you very much. Unfortunately someone else at the table had the information on your sources of power from the green electricity website (which of course gives reference to all your sources on the page devoted to the New Energy Plus). I was really thrown when he said it was not 100% green, but believed that I had misunderstood things rather than he! I've just been on the green electricity website and discovered his error. I will be publishing your comment.
    Having looked at your site I do have a couple of questions
    1. why do you refer to New Energy as the greenest tariff bar none, suggesting it is greener than the 100% renewables New Energy Plus?
    2. given that New Energy is advertised as being the same price as standard tariffs, why does it seem to be a good deal more expensive than our current Scottish Power arrangement - it seems that business rate is costing more than domestic, is this correct?
    thank you very much for you time

  3. Hiya Joanna,

    Thanks for your responses, and don't worry - this is helping us as much (if not more) than the other way around... it is a confusing marketplace sadly, with 'greenwash' and 'green fatigue' abound. We would like to communicate our messages with clarity and honesty, so the comments we have read on here have helped us a great deal in framing the challenges.

    We genuinely believe that we are doing our best to change the way electricity is made in the UK, and through that help our customers make the biggest difference they can by enabling them to turn their electricity bill into windmills.

    In answer to your very good and relevant questions:

    1. We say New Energy is the greenest tariff because of the level of investment, New Energy Plus does have the same level of commitment to new build, but the extra percentage of green energy in the tariff doesn't actually 'make’ it any 'greener' - this is essentially a 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' scenario. As you know from your research, all electricity providers are obliged to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewables by the government's R.O.C scheme, but as you can see from the 'pound per customer' metric on our 'how green' page, most of the companies out there - including many of the independents and greens, are not actually investing significantly in new renewables build at all.

    This means that offering a '100% green' tariff made up entirely from green energy bought on the open market is doing very little to help make a difference, it is just using up what is already there and making it more expensive!

    Even the concept of 'stimulating demand' isn't helping unless someone actually builds something. Dale wrote a blog piece about this: http://zerocarbonista.com/2008/05/12/does-good-energy-cause-new-generation-to-be-built/
    (the passion he feels about this topic may have contributed to the impression that Ecotricity dismisses other good renewable suppliers - but we don't - we do like to badger them to build though ;-))

    Demand for green is rising, but supply is not. That is why we believe that our New Energy tariff, with its annually decreasing amount of brown energy, and annually increasing amount of new green energy is the greenest tariff on the market. The more people join us the more turbines we can build – simple as that!

    2. Business tariffs are based on different metrics to the standard tariffs from regional suppliers which our New Energy prices are matched to - it's all to do with the type of meter and the volume of energy required from what I gather.

    I can give you the details of our dedicated small business team who can explain this in more detail and put together a quote for you if you like?

    Thanks again,

    Best regards

  4. Thanks for that. Hopefully my last question: how can you be spending £1 on investing in windmills for every £1 your customers pay? How do you buy in the other fuel, pay the other bills necessary etc?
    best wishes

  5. Hi Joanna,

    Sorry about the long delay!

    In short - we borrow the rest from the bank and pay it back with proceeds from selling the energy on to our customers...

    Happy 2009 btw!

    Best regards