Brits confused about green tariffs and renewables distribution

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A survey of 2,000 customers conducted by UK utility British Gas has revealed confusion amongst consumers regarding their knowledge on green tariffs and how retailers distribute renewable energy.

15% of the survey participants believe that renewable energy is distributed using different networks used to supply energy generated from other resources, which is incorrect. Instead, utilities leverage the same network to transport both renewables and conventional generated electricity. Utilities only match electricity or gas usage with the equivalent amount of renewable energy or offsets.

The confusion is resulting in consumers’ unwillingness to switch to green tariffs, the study has concluded.

Almost 28% of the surveyed Brits say they are willing to switch to greener tariffs if they are made aware of where their electricity is being sourced from, whilst 23% find the jargon around green energy discouraging.

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Other key study findings include:

  • Despite the confusion, almost one in three want to switch to a greener tariff, whilst 49% are interested in the sustainability credentials of the products they buy. This is backed by the results of a study released by Ofgem which found that the importance of green energy tariffs for consumer choice increased from just 9% in 2019 to 19% this year.
  • When asked about the reasons why they would switch to a greener deal, the low costs associated with renewables is the leading driving force with 7 in 10 highlighting the factor. 45% say they would change to a green tariff if it cost the same as their existing deal. 14% say they stopped using a product because it was unsustainable, whilst 12% say they switched to a greener deal in the past five years owing to sustainability issues. 11% highlighted customer services-related issues as their main drivers for switching.
  • Young customers are more influenced by sustainability factors when choosing a retailer compared to older customers. Over one in five of 18-24-year-olds say they would pay a premium for sustainable energy, falling to just 7% of 45-54-year-olds.
  • Products consumers highlighted they are willing to buy or adopt to become more sustainable include (25%) electric vehicles, (12%) a heat pump and (20%) offsetting carbon footprints, although 27% do not understand how carbon offsetting works.
  • More customers are interested in buying renewable energy generated locally with 26% saying they would rather buy and use sustainable energy generated in their local community.

James Rushen, head of environment at Centrica, said: “It’s clear that until recently many people have not been thinking about where their energy comes from and this may have led to some misconceptions on supply when switching supplier and the sustainability of the energy itself. The good news is that we are starting to see growing interest in sustainable energy from our customers.

He said the company’s “Green Futures tariff is one of only two green tariffs to achieve the USwitch Gold Accreditation,” owing to works done by the utility to ensure it is “100% backed by renewable electricity contracts, green gas and high-quality tree planting and management projects.”

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.