Switching to 100% green electricity is one of the easiest ways to help your organisation become carbon neutral. So what is green electricity and how do you make the switch?
If you do only one thing to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint, make it this one: switch to 100% green electricity.
What is green electricity?
Green electricity refers to any electricity that is generated using sustainable sources such as wind, hydro and solar.
Choosing 100% green electricity means you are paying to use electricity produced by renewable sources, as opposed to electricity produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas. Fossil fuels are our biggest contributor to carbon emissions, so switching to green energy is one of the most powerful and easiest things you can do to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint.
The more organisations switch to green electricity, the less we rely on electricity from coal- and gas-fired power stations, and the less viable they become.
What is GreenPower?
GreenPower is a federally accredited initiative that ensures that the “green” energy you buy from your electricity provider comes from a renewable source. A joint initiative of the ACT, Victorian, SA, NSW and WA governments, it’s designed to help Australians to transition away from carbon by helping to install renewable energy generators across Australia. It also encourages consumers and providers to switch to renewable energy.
When your organisation (or household) buys GreenPower, your energy retailer purchases the equivalent amount of electricity from an accredited energy generator which generates its energy from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy.
It’s not the only way to buy green power, but it’s a great place to start when you’re looking for a 100% green energy provider.
How much does green electricity cost?
Generally speaking, green electricity costs more than standard electricity, partly because of the investment required to build the infrastructure needed to produce it. So when you switch to green energy, you aren’t only paying for it but investing in it too.
According to GreenPower.gov.au, a good way to estimate how much green power will cost you is to take your daily average energy usage in kWh (found on your energy bill) and multiply it by 5 cents. This is roughly how much green power will cost you on top of your existing bill. For example, let’s say your organisation’s office uses 100 kWh per day. 100 kWh x 5 cents = 500 cents = $5 per day extra to use green power instead of standard power. Over one year, that’s an estimated extra $1825.
Many organisations aren’t on the most cost-effective energy plan anyway, and it may be possible to switch to 100% renewable energy and not pay much more, if any more, than you currently do. Some businesses have even saved money by switching to a green energy provider simply because their existing plan wasn’t very good.
Green power and green wash
Not all green power plans are the same. If you want 100% renewable energy (which you do) you need to check that that is what your plan will provide. Most retailers (especially the bigger ones) offer a range of “green” plans that range from 10% renewable energy (or 90% coal-fired power) up to 100%. The higher the percentage of green power, the higher the cost and the bigger effect you will have on reducing your carbon emissions.
To reach net zero, your organisation will need to switch to a 100% green energy plan.
Making the switch
The first step to switching to renewable energy is to understand your current energy retailer contract. Commercial contracts tend to be a bit different from household contracts so you need to know:
- Who you are with?
- How much do you pay?
- Does your plan include renewable energy sources? If so, what percentage?
- What are the terms of the contract? Are there costs to switching?
- When can you switch?
When you are looking at new retailers, you want to know:
- What percentage of renewable energy is included in the offer? (Ideally, you want 100%.)
- Is the energy retailer an accredited supplier of green power?
- What are the terms of the contract?
- How much will it cost you (based on your average daily usage)?
- Can you afford it?
- What feed-in tariff is available if you install solar panels?
- How will the plan work with batteries if you get those installed?
Don’t be afraid to negotiate directly with your prospective energy retailer. Let them know what you want and see what they say. It’s also good to let your old retailer know that they are losing your business because you are going carbon neutral.
Finding a green power provider
Most energy retailers in Australia offer a variety of green electricity plans. The biggest energy retailers tend to be the least green, although they are all getting better (slowly). There are plenty of small energy providers who are really proactive (Enova, Momentum, Diamond etc). The following websites are great places to start your search for a new provider:
GreenPower (https://www.greenpower.gov.au/get-greenpower/find-provider): The official website of the federally accredited GreenPower audit and accreditation program.
Green Electricity Guide by Greenpeace (https://greenelectricityguide.org.au/): This guide rates green energy providers from the best to the worst by state and territory. It helps you to see just how 'green' each provider is and how active they are in playing a part in transitioning the entire industry to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of producing energy.
Energy Made Easy (www.energymadeeasy.gov.au): This government website is a one-stop shop for all energy plans available in Tasmania, the ACT, NSW, Queensland and South Australia. You can filter for green power plans – but be aware that they may not provide 100% green power. Most state and territory governments also have dedicated sites to help consumers find the best energy plans.