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JB

Is green electricity really green?

I mean if you choose to buy electricity on a green tariff can you reasonably say that you contribute nothing to global warming / pollution by doing so?

Electricity is a common resource in the same way that roads and public parks are, just because you pay for the maintenance of a park doesn't mean that you use that park. But people are sold electricity it as though it was free range eggs. Somewhat akin to choosing to buy free range eggs but then being given factory farmed eggs and being told that it's OK as some random person somewhere else who didn't pay for that choice will be given free range eggs.
Rob R

Re: Is green electricity really green?

JB wrote:
I mean if you choose to buy electricity on a green tariff can you reasonably say that you contribute nothing to global warming / pollution by doing so?


No, it means you contribute less, the only way to contribute nothing is to use nothing.

The grid is like a huge battery, I presume the providers of 'green' energy are regulated to make sure they contribute the same kW from green sources as they take in green sales.
Andy B

We could all change to green energy tomorow and nothing would change. We would still be getting electricity from the same place in the same way. Hopefully the money would be put towards creating more green energy but in reality the electricity still has to be paid for so only a small ammount, if anything, of your green bill will go towards creating new green energy sources. So a combination of NIMBY'ism and the technology not being quite their yet will mean it will take a very long time to get us all really getting the green energy we think we are getting.
Green Man

Exactly, what would be wrong 'environmentally' with you paying for free range eggs and getting barn, when somebody paid barn and got free range? It makes no odds to the planet or the hens who consumes the end product.
JB

Cho-ku-ri wrote:
Exactly, what would be wrong 'environmentally' with you paying for free range eggs and getting barn, when somebody paid barn and got free range? It makes no odds to the planet or the hens who consumes the end product.


Consider it the other way around. If you are just buying from a common resource then if you buy "free range" but without actually getting free range then your choice has not added a single free range hen. Similarly with electricity paying for a green tariff does nothing to improve the planet overall, at best it nominally means that you are paying for energy from a renewable source while someone who didn't sign up to such a tariff is deemed to be paying for a fossil fuel source.

Does such a choice actually change the amount of energy produced from renewable sources?
Jonnyboy

northern ireland electricity wrote:
Most of our electricity is made by burning fossil fuels like gas, oil and coal in local power stations. This produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which causes climate change. However Eco Energy is NIE’s alternative source of green electricity and for every unit of electricity you use in your home we will buy an equivalent amount of power from a local ‘renewable’ supplier such as a wind farm.
Green Man

JB ,You would think it has to, but it is a crazy world we live in, and in about ten years time somebody will do a report showing that we have all been duped. But don't worry the then government will demand a public enquiry and nothing will e done about it. Confused
Jonnyboy

It seems to me that;

Either not enough people have signed up to renewable sources, meaning that the total available capacity is greater than the usage of those who have signed up.

More people have signed up than is available and we're being duped, or the same electrcity is being sold more than once.

I'm not sure what is supposed to happen when the renewables market reaches capacity.
Nicky Colour it green

i always thing there is only so much 'green electricity ' - not enough to share
lets make up a percentage - say 20% - so only 20% of the people can buy it - and feel smug ... and pay more for it too of course...and everyone else has to use the other kind and suffer those smug looks..
I can afford to choose free range eggs, and free range chicken meat too, but in reality there is not enough of either to feed the nation so do i have the right to feel smug?
on the other hand, by buying free range, I feel I might be promoting the industry and there will be more free range available - so more people can join the smug club. (and improve the plight of chicken in the future too. maybe.)

does this work the same way with green electricity? does the extra you spend on it actually go to make more for other people? or just cover the costs or more profit to line the shareholders pockets. dunno

either way, the green way forward is to use less
Jonnyboy

I wonder if green energy users have an average lower electrcity consumption that 'standard' users?
Treacodactyl

It would be good to see a simple and unbiased explanation of what happens. I would have thought that once the renewable source has been built then all of it's generated power will be fed into the National Grid and then fossil fuel and nuclear used as top ups. I also gather that you can't simple turn off and on fossil fuel and nuclear power stations so I expect a balancing act is called for and a certain amount of energy dumped from the system.

According to a bit on Country File on Sunday there's a tax on all electricity bills anyway which is put towards renewables. The programme alleged that many wind farms are build in the wrong (i.e. less windy) places because of this cash. It's hardly a new concern but shows it's not a simple case of give someone some money and we reduce our carbon emissions.
Armchair

There was an article on the BBC about 6-12 months ago explaining (or attempting to explain) the whole 'green electricity' issue. I must admit, it was pretty hard to follow, involving various credits and quotas.

The way I look at it is thus; I use electricity and have to pay for it. I'd rather pay a company that adds renewable electricity to the national grid than one that doesn't.
alisjs

I've been on green electricity for 3 years now but it is still one of my missions in life to use as little as possible. There's a discussion about this on the www.carbondiet.org forum, cos at the moment the calculator disregards your leccy use for CO2 emisions if you are on green tariff. I think it's better to show your equivalent emisions.....after all the grid cannot currently supply green electricity for everyone, so we've all got to cut down. I guess the smug green users might be creating a consumer demand/market though (assuming we are not all being duped!).......
better switch off my appliances and go to work now!
Treacodactyl

alisjs wrote:
There's a discussion about this on the www.carbondiet.org forum, cos at the moment the calculator disregards your leccy use for CO2 emisions if you are on green tariff.


Which it shouldn't do as even 'green' energy has a carbon footprint, some quite big. Wind turbines have to be built for example and many biofuels also require quite a high input of energy to grow and process the fuel.

As you say, reducing energy use should be one of our aims.
JB

It was seeing carbomdiet do that which prompted the question. It's not quite as bad, but unless buying green electricity actually leads to a decrease in fossil fuel production then its just a variation of the concept of carbon offsets.
bagpuss

I guess maybe you have to look at it from a marketing point of view, at the end of the day whoever you buy your electricity from it still comes from the common resource

That being said the more people who choose to use green tariffs the more the shareholders of the companies who generate the energy will see the need for the renewable sources etc

the electricity you are paying for now in the green tariff might not actually come from the renewable resource but the longer you do it and the more you convince others to the more likely it will in the future
JB

Reasonable, but it does mean that while there is an environmental argument for buying electricity on a green tariff it does mean that ithe electricity you use at present on such a tariff can not be regarded as having any less environmental impact than electricity bought on any other tariff.
bagpuss

JB wrote:
Reasonable, but it does mean that while there is an environmental argument for buying electricity on a green tariff it does mean that ithe electricity you use at present on such a tariff can not be regarded as having any less environmental impact than electricity bought on any other tariff.



certainly and anyone who has a holier than though attitude about paying for green electricity should have the details of the national grid described to them in some detail
Jonnyboy

Such is the nature of the grid. But they should be applauded for helping to stimulate the renewables market.
Rob R

Why is it a problem? Provided the kW put in is the same as taken out by the 'green' producers/consumers you are consuming green power. You can't expect to get the same electrons off the grid as put in by renewable sources unless you either have two seperate grids, or a wind turbine right next to your house Rolling Eyes

The carbon issue is often reported as a 'once it's gone it's gone' issue, and most of the emphasis seems to be put on cutting down power use. This is very important, but it isn't the same issue as renewable power, which is all about stopping the release of stored carbon from the Earth & utilising more of that already in the carbon cycle & other atmospheric power sources. There was some awareness of the third major problem, that of the world carbon sponges, ten to fifteen years ago, but since then the issue has been taken over [forgotten about?] by renewables & cutting down.
Treacodactyl

Rob R wrote:
Why is it a problem? Provided the kW put in is the same as taken out by the 'green' producers/consumers you are consuming green power. You can't expect to get the same electrons off the grid as put in by renewable sources unless you either have two seperate grids, or a wind turbine right next to your house Rolling Eyes


It depends on how much energy is used just to get that kW of 'green' energy into the grid. For example if wind turbines are built in unsuitable places they might not be as green as people think.
Jonnyboy

Isn't that just overcomplicating things though? Yes both renewable wind farms and coal fired power station use concrete in their manufacture, but do we want to go down the road of analysing it all to the nth degree?
Treacodactyl

Jonnyboy wrote:
Isn't that just overcomplicating things though? Yes both renewable wind farms and coal fired power station use concrete in their manufacture, but do we want to go down the road of analysing it all to the nth degree?


Not to the nth degree but to some extent yes. If you're going to stick the turbine somewhere which isn't that windy and you're still going to need a backup energy supply that needs to tick over, i.e. burn fuels, then all that should be taken into account.
Rob R

It's way too much over complicating the issue, the issue being that if you live next door to Drax yet you pay a 'green' tariff, it is far more 'green' for you to use grid power from the coal fired power station, which doesn't really matter, providing that someone somewhere is producing the same amount of power by renewable sources [and someone paying a 'dirty' tariff is using it].
Jonnyboy

Treacodactyl wrote:

Not to the nth degree but to some extent yes. If you're going to stick the turbine somewhere which isn't that windy and you're still going to need a backup energy supply that needs to tick over, i.e. burn fuels, then all that should be taken into account.


I see your point and whilst I agree with it, I think it's not quite the point we are discussing. If you have one wind turbine on your house you will need back up from the grid, or at times you may contribute to the grid. But overall you may make a positive contribution.
bagpuss

Rob R wrote:
It's way too much over complicating the issue, the issue being that if you live next door to Drax yet you pay a 'green' tariff, it is far more 'green' for you to use grid power from the coal fired power station, which doesn't really matter, providing that someone somewhere is producing the same amount of power by renewable sources [and someone paying a 'dirty' tariff is using it].


I think at the end of the day the more people who pay for green energy the more money companies will put into developing green energy sources because it gains them kudos and more importantly to their shareholders profit

If the current and voltage you actually us is green or not you have no control over and shouldt worry about what more important is you don't use more than you need and you put pressure on government and companies to invest more into renewable energy resources
Treacodactyl

Jonnyboy wrote:
Treacodactyl wrote:

Not to the nth degree but to some extent yes. If you're going to stick the turbine somewhere which isn't that windy and you're still going to need a backup energy supply that needs to tick over, i.e. burn fuels, then all that should be taken into account.


I see your point and whilst I agree with it, I think it's not quite the point we are discussing. If you have one wind turbine on your house you will need back up from the grid, or at times you may contribute to the grid. But overall you may make a positive contribution.


I'm referring to commercial wind farms and surely that's relevant? If the wind isn't strong enough then the electricity will most likely come from fossil fuels or nuclear and I gather those plants have to tick over even when their power isn't required. If you build a wind turbine in a less windy spot then it'll produce even less. It seems some of the current money going into green energy is resulting in wind farms in unsuitable places which would make me question things before signing up to one of the companies.
Jonnyboy

Renewables by their nature have to be part of a complimentary system. Even the most efficiently sited wind farm will have times when it can't generate due to local wind conditions.
Treacodactyl

Jonnyboy wrote:
Renewables by their nature have to be part of a complimentary system. Even the most efficiently sited wind farm will have times when it can't generate due to local wind conditions.


I agree although we should be changing our lifestyles far more to fit in with renewables. To offset the energy used to construct a wind farm it would seem wise to site it the best possible place.
Jonnyboy

Treacodactyl wrote:

I agree although we should be changing our lifestyles far more to fit in with renewables. To offset the energy used to construct a wind farm it would seem wise to site it the best possible place.


True, unfortunately there are lots of arguments that may lead to wind farms being sited in less than optimal places. but that's a reality.
Treacodactyl

Jonnyboy wrote:
Treacodactyl wrote:

I agree although we should be changing our lifestyles far more to fit in with renewables. To offset the energy used to construct a wind farm it would seem wise to site it the best possible place.


True, unfortunately there are lots of arguments that may lead to wind farms being sited in less than optimal places. but that's a reality.


In the same way coal and gas is a reality?

Going back to the original question I'd find the cheapest deal and use the money you save to cut down on your energy usage. At least that way you can see where the money is going.
JB

Rob R wrote:
Why is it a problem? Provided the kW put in is the same as taken out by the 'green' producers/consumers you are consuming green power. You can't expect to get the same electrons off the grid as put in by renewable sources unless you either have two seperate grids, or a wind turbine right next to your house


It's a problem because if there is more renewable supply than people on green tariffs can use then when you sign up to a green tariff you are not reducing the overall impact. If 10% of supply is renewables but only 5% of consumers are on a green tariff then increasing the number of people on green tariffs changes that second figure to 5.5%. It has no reducing effect on the 90% of production that is generating pollution.

Alternatively if there is more demand than supply then the people signing up to green tariffs are being sold a lie. The electricity being paid for as renewable is in fact coming from fossil sources.

I appreciate the point about demonstrating demand and that creating future investment but at the time of consumption using a green tariff does not reduce the overall carbon footprint. So when calculating a personal carbon footprint is it fair to disregard your power consumption just because you use one tariff rather than another?
Rob R

JB wrote:
Rob R wrote:
Why is it a problem? Provided the kW put in is the same as taken out by the 'green' producers/consumers you are consuming green power. You can't expect to get the same electrons off the grid as put in by renewable sources unless you either have two seperate grids, or a wind turbine right next to your house


It's a problem because if there is more renewable supply than people on green tariffs can use then when you sign up to a green tariff you are not reducing the overall impact. If 10% of supply is renewables but only 5% of consumers are on a green tariff then increasing the number of people on green tariffs changes that second figure to 5.5%. It has no reducing effect on the 90% of production that is generating pollution.


My question is that IS this an actual problem, or are we just discussing something that may happen? Jonnyboy's Northern Ireland Electricity statement is what I would have thought would be the case for any electricity company offering a green option, and I would hope any self-respecting energy user would look into their own providers polices before taking up a green tariff. I would also hope that green tariffs are being calculated on kW as opposed to percentages too.
JB

Rob R wrote:
Jonnyboy's Northern Ireland Electricity statement is what I would have thought would be the case for any electricity company offering a green option ...


But that statement doesn't indicate that if you didn't buy the green tariff they would have a policy of buying energy from fossil sources. If there is a renewable source available do the electricity companies buy from that source even if they do not have customers on a green tariff?
Rob R

JB wrote:
But that statement doesn't indicate that if you didn't buy the green tariff they would have a policy of buying energy from fossil sources. If there is a renewable source available do the electricity companies buy from that source even if they do not have customers on a green tariff?


I think that's a tacit implication of the statement- if you buy green, they buy green [if you don't, they don't].
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