Over-stated claims in energy tariffs about their zero or low carbon content are in ministers’ cross-hairs.

BEIS today launches a four-month call for evidence on the extent and remedying of tariff ‘greenwashing’, amid fears from suppliers, environmentalists and analysts that some retailers are misrepresenting their supplies as lower in carbon than they truly are.

The validity and use of British-defined REGOs – Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin – and GoOs, their EU-accredited equivalent – will be key to Whitehall’s probe.   Also in question is the integrity of retailers’ offsetting of carbon content of the power they purchase in wholesale markets.

Allegations of sharp practice in misrepresenting the supposed carbon neutrality of electricity and gas supply has sparked friction between retailers, Good Energy’s public spats with Bulb being among the most notable.

In April consultants Baringa published analysis claiming as much as one-third of electricity marketed as ‘low carbon’ or ‘renewably sourced’ is in fact anything but.   The same controversy looms for gas supply, not least as supply trials proliferate of hydrogen made by splitting water using wind power.

In today’s announcement BEIS points out that over nine million homes now are on green tariffs, with renewables supplying 40% of power consumed.

Supermarket-style “farm of origin” labelling is among improvements mooted today by officials, identifying directly the wind or solar farm producing customers’ supplies.

A technical chapter in BEIS’ enquiry paper itemises the accounting mechanisms currently used to match green energy claims to tariffs.  Any suppliers’ carbon neutrality is typically compiled on a retrospective annualised average.  The paper questions whether more frequent time-based reporting is needed, injecting clarity into any tariff’s carbon accounting, and better reflect the time at which energy was generated and consumed.

Full details on BEIS’s inquiry are here.


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