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, most 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 their latest 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
Which energy companies are greenest?
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. Bottom of the list were Simply Energy with a score of 2.9 and People Energy (1.9).
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 (RET), 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.
- 4% of total sales on GreenPower plans (68% of which on 100% GP)
- Supports RET
- Zero emissions intencity
- Energy efficiency information not comprehensively provided on website
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.
- Public position against CSG and coal
- GreenPower and solar export prices slightly better than average
- Only owns renewable assets
- Only 0.5% of total sales are GreenPower sales (79% of which are on 100% GP)
Following Powershop and Diamond Energy in the national rankings were Momentum Energy (6.9), Aurora (6.5) and Red Energy (6.0).
‘The dirty three’
Australia’s largest energy retailers with a combined market share of 75%, Origin Energy, AGL and Energy Australia, had a very average performance. Labelled ‘the dirty three’, some say that while these companies have invested in renewable energy to different extents, their size and market share means they could be doing more.
Origin Energy is Australia’s largest energy retailer with 4.3 million customers across ACT, NSW, SE QLD, SA and VIC. It is the highest rated of the energy giants with a rating of 5.7. Origin currently owns both renewable and fossil generation assets, however the green electricity guide reports that Origin intends to phase out coal investment by 2030. Origin is also presently recorded as the eighth largest greenhouse polluter in Australia and has been criticised for advocating a reduced renewable energy target in 2014.
- Solar export prices slightly better than state averages
- Comprehensive and accessible energy efficiency products and information available to customers
- 3% of total sales are GreenPower sales (only 7% of which are on 100% GP).
AGL is Australia’s second largest retailer and largest emitter of carbon pollution. In recent years, the company has invested in both renewable and fossil fuel energies, though has reportedly committed to closing all its coal fire plants by 2050 and not to acquire or finance new coal plants. The largest criticisms of AGL’s green policy is that it has not shown support for the RET, and its offers to solar customers are considerably more expensive than non-solar customers.
- Owns and invests in renewable generation assets
- 100% GreenPower slightly cheaper than average
- High emissions intensity (carbon pollution per unit of energy generated)
- Solar customers charged higher prices than non-solar customers.
EnergyAustralia owns several coal plants which gives it the highest emissions intensity and makes it the second largest carbon polluter in Australia, according to the Green Energy Guide. EnergyAustralia has been criticised for advocating for a weakening of Australia’s renewable energy targets. On the other hand, EnergyAustralia has received some praise for its comprehensive energy saving advice and its cheaper than average 100% GreenPower plans.
- Owns and currently developing renewable energy generation
- Prices on 100% green energy slightly cheaper than average
- Comprehensive and accessible energy products and information
- Supported weakening of RET
- Invests in fossil fuel technology
Full Australia-wide ‘green’ results breakdown
|Brand||Rank||Total Score||Renewable Energy||GreenPower||Solar Offers||Transparency|
|Dodo Power & Gas||10||4.9||3.8||7.7||5.7||4.0|
Results taken from the 2015 Green Electricity Guide Report on methodology and results. Some criteria omitted from this table: Emissions intensity, Fossil fuels and energy efficiency. See guide for full details.
Top 10 green energy retailers by state
|5||Dodo Power & Gas||4.9|
New South Wales
|9||Dodo Power & Gas||4.9|
|8||Dodo Power & Gas||4.9|
|7||Dodo Power & Gas||4.9|
How dirty are we?
The Green Electricity 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”.
“Australians support renewable energy, but finding out how green your energy provider really is can be difficult,” 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.”