At Pure Planet, we sometimes get asked a question which goes something like this: “If I buy electricity from you, how do I know that the power coming out of the plug sockets in my home will actually be green? How can you guarantee it’s renewable?”
Others have asked: “Surely, electricity is all the same?”
So, here’s a primer on renewable power, and what is actually happening when you flick a switch at home, or plug a gadget into your sockets.
Electricity is just electricity. An electron is simply an electron. It doesn’t have a colour. It just exists. As energy.
What matters is how that energy is generated — it’s what makes electricity ‘green’ or ‘dirty’. That’s the important bit.
Electricity that has been created by harnessing the wind, or the rays of the sun, is renewable. After you’ve taken into account the manufacture of a turbine or a solar panel, the power created by them is carbon free. And renewables don’t cause pollution when they generate power.
As a consumer, you can choose to buy electricity created only from these and other renewable sources, such as hydro.
Alternatively, you can choose to pay a supplier which creates energy on your behalf by burning dirty fuel, such as coal, oil or gas. Not only do these sources pollute, they cause climate change, and they will run out, or become uneconomic to mine, which is why they are non-renewable.
It’s your choice. The electrons are indistinguishable. What matters is where they come from — fossil fuels, or fresh air and sunshine.
And what about the grid? How green is that?
What’s the best way to think of the National Grid we all share? It’s where we each get our power from — unless we are completely energy independent (and hardly anybody is).
Picture the grid as a giant lake, that we draw our drinking water from. The more fresh, clean water fills the lake, the less dirty, polluted water there will be in it — and the purer the whole lake becomes.
Similarly, the more fresh, clean power that goes into to the grid, the cleaner the whole grid becomes.
Which means that when you buy your power from a 100% renewable supplier, you aren’t buying specially-minted green electrons that will be magically sent down the wires exclusively to your home.
What you are doing is buying clean, renewably-generated power that is being put into the grid on your behalf.
This is what we offer at Pure Planet.
For every kWh of electricity our members take from the grid, we make sure at least one kWh from 100% renewably-sourced power is put onto the grid on their behalf. This is certified by REGOs — regulated certificates that verify the orgin of the renewable generation. In this way, zero carbon emissions are released in generating the energy used by our members — reducing their individual carbon footprints by an average of four tonnes a year.
And with Pure Planet, the cost of renewably-generated power is actually cheaper than power created using polluting methods — so why would you chose that? More expensive and polluting?
Our aim is to get the entire British grid powered by renewables, which is a gradual change that will happen as demand for renewables increases. We hope to drive that change with every new member, in order to create a better, more sustainable world.
If you want to read more about renewable energy sources and how they work, check out our blog on it here.
By Alexandra Chihaia, staff at Pure Planet