Before I start, don’t get me wrong. I am all for renewable energy sources, though I am a bit skeptical about nuclear power as a future alternative. I’m delighted therefore to hear the efforts of the energy companies to move away from fossil fuels to renewable sources. I gather that some days, especially windy days, renewables count for all electrical energy production in the country.
What has got my goat then? It was an advert on the radio, from British Gas as it happens though they are not the first and certainly won’t be the last. It has introduced a new greener tariff and, if my ears did not deceive me, the advert claimed that all the electricity on this tariff would come from renewable sources. How can that be? How can they differentiate the electrons that have been generated through renewable sources as opposed to those from fossil fuels?
Whilst electricity travels at millions of kilometers per hour, the electrons themselves only travel at a rate of around 1mm per second. It would take 230 days for an electron to travel 20kms or so. There is no way that you can claim energy used from the National Grid has been generated in any particular way.
Having looked at their website, the messages are a little clearer. ‘We’ll match 100% of the electricity you use with renewable sources, such as UK wind and solar – helping to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.’ This makes more sense and they are no longer claiming that the electricity you use has been generated in a certain way. In essence then, if everyone moved onto this tariff then all electricity would have to be provided renewably.
Why does this irritate me? Because it is a form of greenwashing. The energy companies are trying to portray a proposition that they cannot deliver. Buy this green tariff and we will deliver green electricity. They are attempting to get the public to believe that somehow their electricity is different from all the others, when clearly it isn’t.
I applaud all their efforts to move away from fossil fuels but this must be done in an open and honest way. One which the public can understand and which does not obfuscate or bend the science.