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  • Guide to buying sustainable energy

    Have you ever stopped to think about where your electricity comes from? In the UK about two thirds of our electricity is generated by burning coal and gas in power stations. This releases millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for climate change, every year. The other third of electricity mainly comes from nuclear power, which has other worryingly severe environmental impacts.

    ‘Green electricity’ means electricity produced from sources which do not cause these impacts upon the environment. Of course, every type of electricity generation will have some impact, but some sources are much greener than others. The cleanest energy sources are those which utilise the natural energy flows of the Earth. These are usually known as renewable energy sources, because they will never run out.

    Why Buy Green Power?

    By choosing to purchase a green power product, you can support increased development of renewable energy sources, which can reduce the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Greater reliance on renewable sources also provides economic benefits and can improve our national energy security.

    How Do I Buy Green Power?

    In the UK

    Most suppliers will have a general environmental policy, for private households some also offer separate green energy tariffs. These are usually one of two types:

    1. The customer pays an additional payment to the regular tariff, sometimes doubled by the supplier, which funds renewable energy projects.
    2. The customer pays a different renewable energy tariff, each unit of electricity used is replaced by the supplier from renewable sources.

    Visit the Green Energy Marketplace to find out what green energy you can get in your area.


    If retail electricity competition is allowed in your state, you may be able to purchase a green power product from an alternative electricity supplier. Some states have already implemented electricity competition. Check the Status of State Electric Industry Restructuring Activity (PDF 2.1 MB) map, prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, to see if your state has passed an electricity competition law.

    Even if your state is not implementing electricity market competition, you may still be able to purchase green power through your regulated utility. More than 600 regulated utilities spanning more than 30 states offer “green pricing” programs (see this map of green pricing programs). The term green pricing refers to an optional utility service that allows customers to support a greater level of utility investment in renewable energy by paying a premium on their electric bill to cover any above-market costs of acquiring renewable energy resources.

    Finally, whether or not you have access to green power through your utility or a competitive electricity marketer, you can purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs). RECs (also known as green tags, green energy certificates, or tradable renewable certificates) represent the environmental attributes of power generated from renewable electric plants. A variety of organizations offer RECs separate from electricity service, that is, you need not switch from your current electricity supplier in order to purchase these certificates.

    To find out what green power options are available in your state, please visit this guide: Can I Buy Green Power in My State? page, where you can click on your state to view available green power products.

    Don’t forget to reduce your energy usage as well

    In addition to sourcing your energy from green sources there is also lots you can do to reduce your energy usage, so have a look around some of the other guides here for great ways to reduce your energy bill each month.

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