Energy bills: experts warn UK consumers of suppliers 'greenwashing' their tariffs

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New research from comparethemarket.com has revealed that over 80% of all households that switched energy supplier last year chose a green tariff over the alternatives. This shows a notable shift in consumer preference as this figure is up significantly from 43% in 2019 and 20% in 2018. 

However, while these figures are encouraging, comparethemarket.com has also warned that consumers are being misled with just how ‘green’ some tariffs are, accusing suppliers of ‘greenwashing’ their deals in an attempt to tap into this increasingly popular market.

Customer confusion of what ‘green’ means

According to separate data from Uswitch, more than half (52%) of households who are on such tariffs are confused about how and what makes them green. On top of this, over a quarter think that having a green tariff means that the energy they receive is 100% renewable. 

However, the reality is that suppliers can label their tariffs as ‘green’ or ‘renewable’ if they purchase Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) certificates, without having to actually purchase power from renewable generators. In turn, this can mean that some 'green' tariffs are in fact using minimal amounts of renewables. 

With this, it has been suggested that further clarity is needed from certain suppliers around exactly how much renewable energy is available in their green tariffs and how it is sourced. Peter Earl, Head of Energy for comparethemarket.com, echoed this and offered his comments on the situation:

"On the surface, 81 per cent of households choosing green tariffs seems really encouraging, but the reality is that not all these tariffs are as 'green' as people may hope.

"Understandably, there has been growing demand from customers to be able to make a difference by switching their energy supply to a more sustainable source. Providers have been quick to latch on to this emerging trend, with the majority of tariffs on the market now labelled as green. However, environmentally conscious households might not be getting exactly what they had hoped for.

"More needs to be done collectively by the industry to make the fuel mix of tariffs more transparent for customers, and we need stricter criteria before a tariff can be labelled ‘green’ or ‘renewable’.”

What to check when looking to switch

If you are looking to switch to a green tariff, you can contact your chosen supplier or look online to see if they have information available about their fuel mix. This is something that popular green energy suppliers like Bulb Energy and Octopus Energy currently have on their websites. What’s more, you could directly ask the supplier where they source their renewables, to help you determine just how green they actually are.

Equally, if you use an online energy comparison service like ours, you can filter the results you get by different features - including exclusively green tariffs that offer 100% renewable electricity. As such, you can get a better idea of both who the best energy suppliers are, who has legitimate green credentials and what the best energy deals are near you right now.

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Richard Hart

Rich is a freelance copywriter and content strategist with over 10 years' experience. His career has seen him work in-house and in various agencies, producing online and offline content marketing campaigns and copywriting for clients in the energy industry.