OFGEM recently released an outline of their proposed new green electricity accreditation scheme … but…
…OFGEM’s idea for regulating green electricity tariffs is to ban them!
Their new rules will ensure customers can’t get real green tariffs in the UK – all they’ll be able to get will be ‘green’ tariffs where trees get planted or carbon gets offset – cuddly, stupid, and quite pointless ‘green’ tariffs.
This is how OFGEM think they’re going to straighten out consumer confusion – by redefining green tariffs as being about anything but investment in new sources of green electricity.
Here’s a bit of background –
OFGEM decided a while ago that customers are confused, that they’re not clear on the benefits that green electricity tariffs really bring and this is preventing larger scale take up (of green tariffs) – so they’ve decided to intervene, after 12 years of doing nothing at all in this sector, and set up an accreditation system that will give customers confidence in what they are being offered.
Sounds fair enough and who could object to that? Not us certainly, not in principle. But in their press release OFGEM left out the details that count, they probably didn’t want to spoil a good story.
Before we get into that, one thing that tickled us –
OFGEM said the system will be voluntary. Er, except that, in the same press release, OFGEM made it quite clear that if the industry does not ‘voluntarily’ adopt the scheme – it will modify supply licences to make it mandatory. Oh that kind of voluntary… silly us.
It’s a marvelous new scheme, unveiled by press release, voluntary in a Soviet Union kind of way – and just six weeks to go before kick off. Who says that Quangos don’t know how to get things done…?
The vital bit of information the press release left out –
OFGEM’s big idea is to accredit tariffs on a ‘bronze, silver and gold’ basis, based on how much money gets spent per customer per year – it’s a fabulous idea, we’ve been pushing the use of spending per customer to cut through corporate green BS for many years. We suggested the very same thing to OFGEM and we’ve been publishing the spending figures of all the UK’s suppliers each year at whichgreen.org.
There’s a ‘But’ though, and it’s huge.
Under OFGEM’s proposed rules electricity companies can spend money on anything they like (pretty much) except, guess what… Building new sources of green electricity. We kid you not.
You’ll be able to buy tariffs that plant trees, carbon offset (yes seriously), pay money into vague funds, promote energy efficiency (help old ladies across the road? not quite) – just about anything with an environment claim to its name – except the one thing that’s really needed and the one thing green tariffs are supposed to be all about – Green Electricity. You won’t be able to get any of that.
Honestly, that’s their big idea. We couldn’t have made this up.
And the probable outcome –
OFGEM is going to mandate Greenwash. That’s what ‘green tariffs’ will become. Greenwash forced on green consumers, mandated and authenticated. And OFGEM will ban real green tariffs into the bargain. Well, ban them from being called green anyway.
Green electricity tariffs will become some kind of charity ghetto where customers elect to pay premiums to see contributions made on their behalf, to the cause of their choice. Be that tree planting, rainforest preservation, protecting wildlife – whatever. Good enough causes no doubt, but this isn’t what green tariffs are supposed to be about.
The one thing customers won’t be able to get is a real green tariff, one that dedicates itself to actually building more green electricity – and one with green electricity in it. How on earth that makes sense we don’t know.
Ecotricity founded the now global green electricity movement. We’ve done as much as anybody and more than most to promote it and make it appeal to a wide audience.
We spend each year more than ten times enough money per customer to qualify for OFGEMs puny gold standard – but we won’t be ‘allowed’ to describe our tariffs as green. Even though that money goes into building new sources of green electricity, the stuff we desperately need.
What more can we say.
OFGEM are going to set mandatory rules for green tariffs to be regulated by – and green electricity won’t qualify.
That’ll make things easier for customers to understand – you can have anything in your OFGEM approved ‘green’ tariff – except green electricity.
It’s the stuff of legend.