Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Energy

For UK residents: an advertisement/endorsement
I very rarely advertise or endorse products or companies. I have a deliberate policy of not accepting Google ads on my site, even though I could be earning hundreds (or, if the marketing is to be believed, thousands) of pounds a year. I think that the vast majority of advertising that swamps our attention is a net deficit to social health through creating artificial dissatisfaction (the basis of most marketing), that is, through the corruption of desire, which, in theological terms, is a cause and symptom of sin. However, there are exceptions.

And I am going to make one in this case. Sometimes, I am quite happy to recommend a product and believe that doing so is not promoting destructive cravings or artificial needs.

How to save £50 and slash your carbon footprint
I agree with Žižek that ethical consumption is insufficient to meet the scale and breadth of problems we face. Yet almost everyone uses electricity, and very few are able to generate their own. This means that the vast majority of us pay an energy company for our power generation.

The selection of a power company is an ethical choice when there are genuine differences between them and between the results of various ways of producing electricity. Sources of power that require the combustion of finite fossil fuels and the emission of significant volumes of greenhouse gases contribute to the dangerous pace of climate change we are beginning to experience and leave a legacy for countless future generations. They also continue the process of ocean acidification and are generally associated with a wide range of other ecological and social ills. Therefore, reducing one's power consumption and switching to cleaner sources is an expression of love for God's good creation in its biodiversity, for one's neighbours who rely on a stable climate for food and for future generations whose societies will be shaped by the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans that we leave behind.

In the UK, renewable energy has the potential to supply most or all of the nation's energy requirements. It is not perfect, but it is vastly superior to the alternatives when all ethical factors are considered. While many energy companies offer "green" packages, many of these only include small fractions of generation from renewable sources. As far as I am aware (feel free to correct me) only two companies currently offer 100% renewable energy to households in the UK: Ecotricity and Good Energy. Having looked into both of them, we chose Good Energy, which is the only energy company to receive the highest rating from Ethical Consumer on their Ethical Company Index.

Ten reasons to consider switching to Good Energy

1. Carbon free. All Good Energy generation is from renewable sources (no fossil fuels or nuclear) with zero carbon emissions.* Switching from a standard energy package to 100% renewable will reduce most people's carbon footprint by up to a third. For many people, this will be more than selling the car, giving up flying or becoming vegetarian. This difference is independently certified under the Green Energy Supply Certification Scheme.
*Yes, there are still emissions associated with the construction and materials, but these are relatively small compared to alternatives. For those with gas as well as electricity, Good Energy also offer gas, which obviously does have emissions, but they put the profits back into supporting renewable generation. Switching electricity (but not gas) to renewable generation will still reduce most people's carbon footprint by about 1.5 tonnes per annum.

2. Easy. This is probably the single largest reduction to most people's carbon emissions that can be made as a once off action in a matter of minutes without any further thought or change in lifestyle. Although many of the steps I think we all need to consider taking are difficult (and I'm suspicious of lists that claim "ten easy steps to save the planet"); this one really is very easy.

3. Not too expensive. When fossil fuels are subsidised to the tune of over £300 billion per year globally (more than ten times the amount received by renewables), it is no wonder that we consider them cheap energy. But good energy doesn't need to cost the earth. Switching to Good Energy, the average household will pay the grand sum of approximately £1 more per week - though that is before we get to #10 (see below).

4. Human scale. You are supporting a small, accountable and responsive company, rather than filling the coffers of a huge multinational. I think that size does matter. There are better and worse companies at all sizes, but my impression is that human-scale operations are less likely to be truly evil and that few giants are truly benign.

5. Local. As a UK-based company, it is subject to UK laws and taxes and so isn't trying to avoid its social responsibilities through tax avoidance. It works with thousands of small-scale energy suppliers and so is like buying from a farmers market rather than a supermarket. You can read more here.

6. Resilient. Once constructed, renewables have the advantage of much shorter supply chains and are less vulnerable to geopolitical disruptions than fuels that must be imported from elsewhere. This makes them (and the communities they power) more resilient during bumpy times.

6. It's the future. In this interview, a discussion of trends in new energy production might surprise some in how far renewables have come.
"For the past two years 40 per cent of all new electricity generating capacity in Europe came from wind turbines. (Add solar and other renewables and that rises to 63 per cent.) From Spain to Sweden so many new turbines are being erected that Europe is on target to produce 15 per cent of its electricity from wind by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2050."
Scotland has committed to getting 80% of its electricity from renewables by 2020 and may reach 100% by 2025.

7. You're not alone. Public attitudes towards wind power in particular are overwhelmingly positive. I don't deny that there are downsides, but it is the best option available, especially in Scotland where it is coupled with hydro power for both storage of excess production (extra wind energy can pump water back uphill for later hydro use) and for immediate demand when wind drops.

8. Accessible. At Good Energy, a real person will answer your calls and emails. I actually called yesterday, didn't wait in line, didn't face fifty sub-menus on an automated system and got a direct and helpful answer to a query I had about our energy use. We've been with them for over six months now and every interaction has been positive. I was going to post about them earlier, but decided to wait and see if it turned out to be too good to be true. It hasn't. So it's no surprise to us that Good Energy recently came top in a Which? survey of customer satisfaction with utilities.

9. Visible. Most energy production today happens out of sight and so stays out of mind. Being more mindful of where our energy comes from means taking greater responsibility for the energy choices we make in both production and consumption.

10. Special offer. Good Energy have a standing offer to encourage customers to spread the word. If you quote my name and customer reference number (003060766), then both you and I receive £25 credit on our accounts with Good Energy. Yes, I am in effect being paid a commission for this ad, but I am happy to do this as this product is not based on the creation of artificial "needs" or the corrupting of desire. Most of us also have plenty of room to reduce our energy consumption through all kinds of measures (better insulation, behavioural change, energy-efficient appliances, reduced consumption of other goods and so on), but few will end up using no electricity at all, so I am not helping to create an artificial desire. If you let me know before the end of the week,* then as a special offer for Climate Week, Good Energy are doubling the usual reward, i.e. £50 credit for each of us. Once you join, you too can tell others and cut both your bills and those of your friends and family. Recruit enough people and your energy is not just carbon free - it's free.
*You can email me via my profile.

If you would like to compare different companies and what they offer, try Ethical Consumer or Green Electricity, which both offer side-by-side comparisons of the options from independent third parties. Please take a moment this week to consider your energy supplier and contact me if you're curious or keen. Even if you're not sure, let me know and I can register your interest before the end of the week and then you'll have until the end of April to sign up and still get the £50 credit.

Here ends the advertisement. Your regular programming will resume shortly.


byron smith said...

Guardian: Living with a laptop off the grid. Cost: £3,000. Ecological impact: almost zero.

I do recognise and honour such experiments. Not everyone needs an electric company.

byron smith said...

The big six UK energy companies have all raised their prices with the last couple of months. Good Energy have not. This is one of the advantages of not relying so heavily on imported fuels.

byron smith said...

The Conversation: the muddy green secret of renewable energy. Unfortunately, the article does little in the way of analysis of the overall impact of the resources required for x amount of renewable energy. That would have been quite constructive.

byron smith said...

Good Energy have not raised their electricity prices since 2008 and are aiming to hold them till at least 2012. Considering the way most of the market is moving at the moment, that is quite an achievement.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Another major supplier raises prices.

byron smith said...

Guardian: UK press are anti-renewables.

byron smith said...

Another UK provider raises prices.

byron smith said...

ABC: Wind turbines power mass hysteria. Wind turbine syndrome debunked.

byron smith said...

14 Wind myths debunked.

byron smith said...

The wind doesn't blow all the time? More wind myths and misunderstandings (esp around intermittency).

byron smith said...

Guardian: Big six accused of manipulating gas price.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Gas price manipulation - how it works. An insider's account.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Good Energy doing well.