If you, like many others, are concerned about the environment, you may wish to switch to a green energy plan if you are not on one already. Making sure that the energy you use in your home or business is as green as possible can have a major impact on your own carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The UK continues to turn to green energy to supply its power needs, with the proportion of power created from renewable sources increasing steadily in recent years. The principal sources contributing to renewable electricity production in the UK are wind, solar, hydropower and biomass. Whilst not a renewable source, nuclear power also contributes to reducing UK carbon emissions.
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What is green energy?
Green energy is defined as energy that is produced with little to no environmentally damaging by-products such as hazardous waste, carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution. It is also referred to as alternative energy because it provides a safe alternative to the methods previously used to produce energy such as burning coal, gas or oil or using nuclear technology.
What are the advantages of green energy?
Green energy has 3 main advantages over traditional forms of energy. There are no damaging by-products to harm the environment, it is a low-cost solution for generating power and linked with this there is a cost advantage for consumers.
Burning coal to produce power results in high emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. These are all harmful to the environment. Nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide produce acid rain, causing pollution. Dangerous metals such as mercury and lead escape into the air when coal is burnt, leading ultimately to their appearance in the food chain. Burning coal also emits particles which cause air pollution and health difficulties.
Producing electricity using coal or gas-fuelled power stations is costly. Regulating nuclear fuel supplies and waste from nuclear power stations also comes at a very high price. The costs continue to rise because, with increased awareness of the environmental impact of fossil fuels, power companies are endeavouring to reduce emissions from traditional energy production. This is also costly. We all pay for these costs through our energy bills.
Green energy sources provide a far lower cost solution to energy production. The cost is lower, whether you generate green energy yourself or rely upon green energy supplied by a power company, because you only pay for the materials used to construct the power source. No fuel is required besides naturally occurring sources such as wind and sunlight.
Renewable v non-renewable
You may see power sources referred to as renewable or non-renewable. What does this mean? Green energy from natural sources such as wind, solar, tides, geothermal heat and water is renewable. These sources of energy are constantly replenished. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are non-renewable. It takes millions of years for these resources to be created so in practical terms, once we have used the earth’s fossil fuel resources, we cannot replace them.
Electricity produced from renewable sources is referred to as green electricity. This can be produced on a large scale by power generation companies, fed into the national grid from the surplus from small scale generation projects or produced by individuals or businesses to meet their own needs. There are many ways of producing green electricity:
In the UK, one resource we have no shortage of is wind. Due in part to its island location, the UK is a particularly windy country, especially in the colder winter months. A growing number of wind farms both off the coast and in exposed areas inland produce significant amounts of electricity. Wind power makes up the largest proportion of the UK’s renewable energy production.
The power of stored water, for example from a dam, is used to turn turbines to generate electricity.
Tidal and Wave
The UK is surrounded by the sea. The immense power of the sea can be harnessed to provide a source of power production. Power turbines have appeared off the coasts of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall, making use of the tidal energy created by waves.
Solar panels provide a source of green energy. There are an increasing number of ‘solar farms’, bringing together a huge number of solar panels in one place as well as smaller-scale individual panels on houses and business premises. Solar panels can still generate power even on a cloudy day.
Discussions of green energy often focus on electricity production but it is also possible to produce green gas. Green gas, or biogas, is produced by the decomposition of food or farm waste to produce biomethane. This can be used in exactly the same way as the fossil fuel gas traditionally used in the UK. The raw materials used to produce green gas are renewable and any waste is used as fertiliser.
The use of green gas is carbon neutral. The plant material which produces the gas has absorbed carbon dioxide while it is growing. Burning the gas releases this same carbon dioxide, meaning that there is no overall increase in carbon dioxide.
Is green energy reliable?
Some people have been put off renewable energy for fear that it may be unreliable. Electricity supply from a green energy company will be just as reliable as one supplying energy generated from fossil fuels. There are a huge number of different types of renewable energy available to balance out supply and demand, and the technology to store generated power is improving all the time.
Is green energy more expensive?
In the past, green energy has been more expensive but this is no longer the case. Many very competitive green energy tariffs are now available.
Where do I find green electricity companies and providers?
Many UK electricity companies and energy providers now provide green energy plans. The proportion of energy produced from renewable sources will vary from company to company, with some now offering 100% renewable options and others committed to providing low carbon emissions if the energy they provide is not 100% renewable.
You can find green electricity providers here on our site by entering your postcode. Your results can be filtered to show only green energy plans. If you wish to see the proportion of energy produced from each method by an electricity company, check their website. They are required to publish this information.
Is green energy suitable for business?
Green energy is suitable for business and switching your tariff may even save your business money. For energy which is not green, such as natural gas, a green energy company will provide a carbon offset, thereby reducing the impact on the environment. Businesses may also wish to look at generating a proportion of their own electricity through the renewable methods available.
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