Call to clarify green energy claims

Two consumer groups are urging action after an investigation revealed power companies are making misleading 'green energy' claims.

The National Consumer Council (NCC) investigation showed that while customers were keen to go green, energy companies are already obliged to source renewably, and ‘greenness’ is often oversold. The NCC also found that consumers were unclear about exactly what made the tariff they were signing up to green. Lord Larry Whitty, NCC chairman said:

“We’re calling for a shakeup in how companies market and sell their green tariffs, and for them to offer bigger environmental benefits. Even the better tariffs would only cut the CO2 emissions of a typical household by around 6 per cent.”

The NCC and power watchdog Energywatch want energy suppliers to sign up to a set of minimum standards for green claims and have their tariffs and CO2 savings independently audited. The groups hope this will help consumers make informed choices about which supplier they choose.

Energy watch have produced a “Going Green” guide on their website, comparing different suppliers and explaining whether their green tariffs come at a premium, what the environmental benefits are, what guarantees are offered as well as distinguishing between the types of green tariff.

According to Energywatch, it is important that consumers understand the difference between tariffs involving, for example, renewable electricity, investment in building wind turbines, or in projects to offset household carbon emissions. Choosing a green tariff that offers to plant a tree would not contribute anything like enough to offset a household’s carbon emissions.

Scottish Power, one of the companies listed in Energywatch’s guide, buys energy form a renewable generator and funds environmental projects. They say their website is clear about the environmental credentials they provide.

“We are the biggest developer and generator of onshore wind-energy in Britain.” said a spokesman.

Caroline White

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