Green is the new black in the not-so-fashionable world of energy retailing. At a time when Australia has huge renewable energy targets and consumers are becoming more conscious about their personal carbon footprints, the electricity providers would like to be seen as ‘green’. So which really are worthy of calling themselves such?
Fortunately the good people at Greenpeace Australia and the Total Environment Centre have an answer, having released the 2015 Green Electricity Guide – a state by state ranking of electricity retailers for environmentally aware consumers.
The rankings, which include 23 electricity retailers that sell to households across Australia, are based on seven different criteria:
- Emissions intensity
- Renewable energy positions and investments
- GreenPower products and promotion
- Support for distributed generation
- Fossil fuels policy and investments
- Energy efficiency performance and promotion
- Environmental transparency
So which retailers stood out? For the second year running, Powershop and Diamond Energy – both based in Victoria – topped the national ratings table as the greenest energy suppliers in Australia. They also, therefore, led the way in the states in which they operate.
Powershop received a score of 8.6 out of a possible 10 for owning only renewable energy assets (via parent company Meridian Energy), having an emissions intensity of zero, supporting the renewable energy target, its public position against coal and coal seam gas mining, its promotion of GreenPower, and its offers to solar customers.
Meridian Energy owns two wind farms in Australia which generate more energy than Powershop currently sells to customers, the report states. “Powershop currently supplies around 50,000 customers in Victoria and NSW and has developed innovative ways to market to consumers and to communicate with them”. The report also praised Powershop for having the highest GreenPower sales relative to total sales and a large proportion of GreenPower customers on 100% equivalent plans.
Diamond Energy came a close second to Powershop with a score of 8.5 out of 10. It was commended for generating electricity with no fossil fuel power plants, its low GreenPower surcharge and its public position against coal and coal seam gas investment.
“Diamond owns two mid-scale biogas power plants and is involved with other renewable projects,” the report says. Like Powershop, Diamond Energy was also praised for having a large proportion of GreenPower customers on 100% equivalent plans.
Following Powershop and Diamond Energy in the national rankings were Momentum Energy (6.9), Aurora (6.5) and Red Energy (6.0).
How dirty are we?
The 2015 Green Electricity Guide guide reports that the electricity sector is Australia’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with only 13 per cent of electricity coming from renewable sources, mostly hydro and wind, but also from an increasing amount of rooftop solar.
The report also criticises the “dirty three” energy companies – Origin Energy, EnergyAustralia and AGL – which it’s claimed “sometimes market themselves as environmentally conscious, but their ‘green’ initiatives are small compared to their investments in coal and gas generation”.
Origin was ranked 8th on the list of green energy retailers with a score of 5.7. AGL followed in 9th (5.1) and EnergyAustralia 10th (4.9).
Bottom of the list were Alinta Energy with a score of 3.4, Simply Energy (2.9) and People Energy (1.9).
“Australians support renewable energy, but finding out how green your energy provider really is can be difficult,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific climate campaigner Nikola Casule told One Step off the Grid. “By giving consumers the information they want, they can change to a greener supplier and hopefully motivate the industry to become cleaner and greener.
“Some companies have made good progress this year, but Origin Energy, Energy Australia and AGL’s continued average performance should still be a concern for Australians.”