Which? accused of defamation over ‘misleading’ renewable guarantees claims

Which? argued that current Ofgem rules have allowed utilities to "greenwash". Image: Which? 

Which? has also been forced to print a clarification in relation to claims made in a footnote of a magazine article about the issue against fellow challenger supplier Robin Hood Energy.

Pure Planet is an app-based renewable energy supplier which purchases power through renewable electricity guarantees of origin (REGO) certificates.

In a report published on Friday (27 September) Which? said it is concerned that suppliers like Pure Planet are at risk of misleading customers.

For example, some of the suppliers who offer 100% renewable energy do not generate renewable electricity themselves or have contracts to buy renewable electricity directly from generators.

The consumer group said it was concerned that the current system allowed suppliers relying solely on REGOs to “greenwash” their tariffs.

A survey conducted by Which? found 11% of people believe energy firms who sell renewable electricity generate some of that electricity and 8% generate all of it.

Under current Ofgem rules, suppliers which sell 100% renewable electricity must have REGOs to prove it. However, they are not required to generate renewable electricity themselves, nor have contracts in place to buy it directly from generators.

The consumer group said it is concerned however that the current system allows suppliers relying solely on REGOs to “greenwash” their tariffs.

Steven Day, the founder of Pure Planet, said Which? has shown a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the way electricity is generated.

He said: “Pure Planet is proud to supply 100% renewable electricity and carbon offset gas to homes all over Britain. Any suggestion that we mislead our members is both untrue and defamatory.

“Which? has shown a fundamental misunderstanding of the way electricity is generated, certified, traded, managed by the grid, and supplied. As a consequence, it has labelled many supply companies in completely inappropriate ways.

“All green suppliers have to use REGOs to verify that the electricity used by their customers is matched by electricity generated from renewable sources.

“Pure Planet uses the very same green certification as every other green supplier. There are no separate or different grades of REGO.

“Therefore, for Which? to suggest some companies are misleading their customers is totally false and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the electricity market.”

In response to Day’s comments, Which? said it stands by its research.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Robin Hood Energy also criticised the consumer group.

They said: “Since July 2018, 100% of the electricity we supply to UK homes and businesses is purchased from a partner who sources from specified UK wind and solar projects.

“We are also looking at several options to become a green generator ourselves through our own projects.

“It’s extremely frustrating and unhelpful that Which? have used data that is over 18 months out of date in this article in terms of where and how we purchase our energy.”

Another supplier, Green Star Energy, accused Which? of bias against smaller suppliers.

In an email sent to the consumer group seen by Utility Week, Green Star said: “We would like to express our disappointment regarding the inaccurate positioning of the article’s content.

“Green Star Energy is an energy supplier, rather than a generator. We do not need to own renewable generation, nor have power purchase agreements in place, to supply 100% renewable electricity to our customers.

“Purchase of REGOs to substantiate supplying green energy is not a greenwash; your presentation of it as such is concerning.

“We are certified 100% renewable as per our fuel mix disclosure, evidenced through the purchase of REGOs.

“Furthermore, as it is only the much larger suppliers that have the luxury of direct renewable generation, or indeed of entering into direct PPAs, the article seems singularly biased against smaller suppliers.”

Which? editor-in-chief Richard Headland said: “As consumers grow ever-more environmentally-conscious, it’s concerning that some suppliers appear to be ‘greenwashing’ their energy tariffs, which could risk misleading customers.

“We believe there needs to be greater clarity on how renewable electricity is defined and marketed. People can only make informed decisions about where to buy their energy from if firms are more upfront and transparent about their green credentials.”

Earlier this year large energy supplier Eon said it would be offering all its customers 100% renewable energy.

Eon will generate electricity from its own renewable assets, covering more than half of its electricity customer base (1.7 million homes). It also has agreements with independent wind generators around the country to directly purchase the electricity produced.

The remaining electricity is matched with 100% renewable electricity sourced externally through initiatives such as REGO certificates.

The use of REGOs prompted some to question whether Eon’s announcement was quite as revolutionary as first thought.

The company said: “These certificates guarantee that an equivalent amount of renewable electricity was generated to the amount supplied.

“Eon has been a driving force behind the renewables revolution in the UK. Our first wind farm was built on Anglesey back in 1992. We were behind the country’s first offshore wind farm 20 years ago and last year completed our latest project off the Sussex coast.

“In the last decade,we have helped the industry to reach a place where environmentally friendly power sources can outperform fossil generators.”

Adam John

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week


Comments (2)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    The problem is how do we, the consumer, know that the power we are buying from any company is "renewable"?

    All it takes is for a new company to set up a shiny website with all sorts of claims about renewable energy and the consumer is non the wiser. Even if you dig through the small print most consumers wouldn’t know a REGO from a LEGO(tm).

    It’s not necessarily a problem for most companies, who rely on their good name and reputation, but there is a risk that some companies might say one thing but in fact are not doing quite what they stipulate. That’s probably what Which! were saying about "misleading" claims.

  2. Ben Burton says:

    Rego’s are a scam, Which? had every right to highlight the greenwash surrounding these forms of certificates. They are neither here nor there regarding where the energy is coming from. As its dark at night and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. What then I ask is what is powering these ”100%” renewable pass through trading companies? Fossil fuelled generation.
    All just green wishy washy to the real facts that people are paying over inflated prices for intermittent power that gets forced onto the grid.
    The whole REGO system of certificates are a mechanism to sell the useless power that causes greater amounts of pollution from ramping up and down of power stations.
    Check https://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ and you’ll see that the windmills go days without generating renewable energy, who are these consumers buying power off then?

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