Friday, 24 October 2008

Who do you buy your electricity from?

Veteran environment journalist Fred Pearce has started a new Green Wash column at The Guardian.

His opening salvo examines the question of green electricity supply, and green energy tariffs -- the scheme that lets British energy customers pay a premium for green energy. But, as Pearce reveals, there is no guarantee that the extra money is used to generate green energy, or to pay for the installation of additional renewable generators (e.g. wind turbines).

What's more, some companies can apparently sell their "green energy" several times (ie sell more than they generate).

In Ireland, we can choose from two electricity suppliers: ESB and airtricity . The latter owns several wind farms and, as a result, claims its electricity is 79% renewable. But, given that all of Ireland's electricity is distributed down the same national grid, how can airtricity customers know that their supply is indeed 79% renewable?

Does switching to airtricity really help to drive the move to renewables in Ireland, or just make us feel good?