Green Energy Australia: I want green energy but what are my options?

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At this stage, it’s safe to say we’ve probably all heard about the negative carbon footprint of our electricity generation and usage, but for the modern day Aussie, it’s hard to get around our reliance on the grid. One of the big questions that might spring to mind is whether there’s a way to use power that could be categorised ‘environmentally friendly’ – and if so, what changes would the everyday energy consumer have to make to fit the bill?

If you’re a keen, green, eco-conscious machine, and are looking for the best electricity options available to fit your needs, then you’ve come to the right place – we break down the steps to get you on your way to greener pastures (literally).

Can I buy renewable energy in Australia?

Let’s clear the air – unless you’re producing electricity yourself with solar panels, there’s no way Aussie customers can purchase energy that is entirely generated from renewable sources. This is because our energy all feeds into one single source, from which it is then distributed based on states and other location-specific details. So, power generated from wind turbines, hydro electric stations, or huge solar farms is all fed into the same electricity grid as power generated from gas or coal-fired plants across the country. There is no way of knowing the origin of the energy used in your home – unless, of course, it’s drawn straight from the solar panels on your roof.

The current shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy (largely through public pressure) has pushed corporations and governments to invest in renewable energy generation that will help power our energy grids with solar, wind and hydro energy amongst other renewable resources, and move away from non-renewable methods. Until this is the case, there are a few things you can do to lessen the environmental impact of your power usage.

So, what are my green energy options?

Here are the energy options available to Australians who want to reduce their carbon footprint:

Consider installing a solar system

It’s truly a no brainer – one of the easiest ways to reduce your eco footprint is to use less electricity from the grid. Solar panels can be an intimidating upfront investment, but with so many installers now offering payment plans, it might be a price worth paying. And with the option to store the extra electricity your panels generated in the daytime in a battery, you could find yourself in a position to go completely off-grid.

We’ve got solar pretty well covered at Canstar Blue, so you can rest assured you’re well educated before making any big purchasing decisions.

Solar Power FAQs

Choose Carbon Offset Electricity

Put simply, ‘carbon offsetting’ is making up for the carbon emissions that you create through your electricity usage by supporting emission reduction efforts across Australia and the globe. Every provider has their own way of offsetting – which we’ll explore in more detail below. So, whether it’s an optional extra or an included benefit of being with a certain provider, these are the companies offering carbon neutral energy options to Australians.

Providers that carbon offset energy in Australia

EnergyAustralia (Carbon Neutral)

EnergyAustralia logo

EnergyAustralia offers customers the opportunity to opt in to having their carbon emissions offset. It’s completely free, and according to the provider, has helped more than 145,000 of its customers reduce their carbon emissions since 2016. How it works is, EnergyAustralia buys carbon offset units from climate action projects that support forest regrowth and bushfire management within Australia and landfill waste management in Brazil to list a few examples. These units are eligible under the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).

Powershop (Carbon Offset Electricity)

Powershop customers by default have 100% of both their electricity and gas usage offset by the purchase of Certified Emission Reduction (CER) certificates. These certificates are created through investment in emission reducing projects such as renewable energy generation, methane capture and reforestation projects. You won’t pay any extra for this, and again, this retailer is accredited carbon neutral by the NCOS.

Energy Locals (Carbon Offsets)

Energy Locals customers have their energy usage offset with the purchase and surrendering of CER certificates, making the provider 100% carbon neutral. Generated by international sustainability developments, the certificates meet the National Carbon Offset Standard regulated by the Australian government. You won’t have to pay extra for these offsets as they’re already included through just being signed up to the retailers. Energy Locals also offsets all of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its own business activities.

AGL (Future Forests)

Australia’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, AGL has begun offering its own carbon offset program called Future Forests. Customers will have to pay an extra $1 per week to attain carbon neutrality in their energy usage through a tree-planting program. This is Australia-based, where trees are planted in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt region and Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor, meaning the impacts are felt locally. The AGL Future Forests program is said to adhere to the World Wildlife Fund Gold Standard.

Origin Energy (Green LPG)

Unlike the other tier one energy providers, Origin Energy isn’t offering carbon offsets on its customers’ electricity usage – but it does for its LPG users. The retailer claims to offset the emissions caused by its customers’ LPG consumption through an independently-audited Carbon Reduction Scheme. Origin Green LPG costs $3 extra per $45 cylinder and supports the planting of trees, renewable energy generation and funds energy efficiency projects.

DC Power Co (Carbon Neutral)

New kid on the block, DC Power Co not only caters its product to customers with solar panels, but also providers carbon offsets to those without them. It’s another provider to offer 100% carbon neutral gas alongside electricity for no extra expense. How it works is DC purchases certified carbon credits equivalent to the amount of power its customers use that go toward carbon emission reduction efforts worldwide.

Pay extra for GreenPower

GreenPower is a government program that allows everyday Aussies to opt in to pay a bit extra on their energy bill in order to support investment in renewable energy. How it works is that you’ll pay a few dollars a week on top of your normal electricity payments to have between 10% and 200% of your electricity usage offset through the purchase of Large-scale Generation Certificates. So, your provider essentially pays for a certain amount of renewable energy to enter the grid on your behalf. Though really, you’re paying for it!

A common misconception of GreenPower is that you’re directly purchasing green energy from renewable sources, but since electricity comes from the national grid rather than any one single energy generation source, purchasing this add-on is the closest customers without solar can get to actually using renewable electricity. Not all energy companies offer GreenPower, but here are the ones that do:

Providers that offer GreenPower

How much does GreenPower cost?

The cost of GreenPower varies between providers, and the percentage of GreenPower you choose to purchase. The availability of GreenPower varies between states and plans, so be sure to check with your retailer to see what’s available to you.

Provider % GreenPower offered* How much will this cost me?
ActewAGL 10%, 20%, 25%, 50%, 100%, 200% 14c/day to $2.66/day
AGL 10%, 20%,100% $1.10/week to 5.5c/kWh
Aurora Energy 10%, 20%, 50%, 75%, 100% 0.602c/kWh to 6.023c/kWh
Click Energy 25% only Absorbed in ‘Click Green’ rates
CovaU 25%, 100% 1.5c/kWh to 5c/kWh
Diamond Energy 20%, 50%, 100% 1.10c/kWh to 5.5c/kWh
Dodo Energy 10%, 100% 0.99c/kWh to 9.9c/kWh
Energy Locals 10%, 20%, 50%, 100% 0.9c/kWh to 9c/kWh
EnergyAustralia 10%, 20%, 100% $0.0495 x (10% of usage) to $0.0495 x (100% of usage)
Enova Energy 100% only 8c/kWh
Ergon Energy 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% $14 to $140/quarter
Momentum Energy 10%, 20%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% N/A
Origin 25%, 50%, 100% $2 per week to 5.61c/kWh
Powerdirect 10%, 20%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% 99c to $9.878/week
Powershop 100% only 8.5c/kWh
Red Energy 100% only 5.83c/kWh
Simply Energy 10%, 100% N/A
Synergy 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% $1.34 to $7.99/week

*Information sourced from GreenPower.gov.au and retailer fact sheets/websites, May 2019

What else can I do to reduce my carbon footprint when it comes to energy?

It goes without saying that the easiest and most cost-effective way to reduce the negative effects of your energy usage is to… use less electricity. But unfortunately for the majority of Australians who live in big cities, this may seem like an impossible task. At Canstar Blue, we’ve shared our best tips and tricks for maximum energy-efficiency, helping you cut down both your power bill and your carbon footprint…

Is it financially ‘worth it’ to go green?

Going green doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg, and if you’ve made it this far down our page, there’s a good chance it probably is ‘worth it’ to you. From picking an energy retailer that purchases carbon certificates on your behalf, to installing a full off-grid solar system, there’s varying price points, but your decision will ultimately weigh on your personal circumstances. If you’re a budget-strict uni student, choosing an electricity retailer that supports carbon-reducing products may be the best you can do, and if you’re further up the career ladder, forking out extra for a GreenPower plan or a solar system could be a great option.

If money is tight, keep in mind that savings can be found in the place where you might need it most. Shopping around for a good deal could save you hundreds a year – money that you can invest in green energy initiatives – so click the link below to start comparing plans on Canstar Blue.

Image credit: Greg Brave/shutterstock.com, studio barcelona/shutterstock.com, arbuz/shutterstock.com

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