Is there a ‘greenest’ energy provider?

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Green is the new black in the not-so-fashionable world of energy retailing. Most energy retailers would like to be seen as environmentally friendly, but few genuinely are. So, how can you tell which companies will help customers reduce their carbon footprint? Most energy providers would like to be seen as ‘green’ but which are really worthy of calling themselves such?

Well, the reality is that it’s hard to determine the retailers that are green, let alone the ‘greenest’. The closest thing to an independent analysis in recent years came from the good people at Greenpeace Australia and the Total Environment Centre, but that research hasn’t been updated since 2018. Nevertheless, you’ll find more on that below.

Thankfully, there are retailers that allow you, the consumer, to opt in to green initiatives, primarily through offsetting programs. Let’s delve a bit deeper into the energy providers that are doing their bit for the planet and what you as a consumer should look for in terms of green energy credentials. 

What makes a green energy company?

There are a few key factors to consider when trying to weigh up which energy companies are looking out for the environment, such as:

  • Do they offer green energy products such as GreenPower or carbon offsetting to help their customers contribute to the renewable energy industry or at least offset their own energy use? Good solar feed-in tariffs could also be considered as a way of encouraging households to go green themselves.
  • Does the retailer or the parent company own any renewable energy assists such as solar farms, wind farms, or hydroelectricity plants that contribute clean power to the overall energy mix in Australia?
  • How innovative is the provider in creating new products and supporting renewable energy industries such as electric vehicles? Some retailers promote EV energy plans to support households with electric cars.
  • What is the company’s public position on renewable energy and plans for the future? Some big retailers have undergone an image change in recent years to promote green energy credentials and one has even promised to stop coal-fired power generation within the next few decades.

Reality check

Whatever a retailer’s green energy credentials, it’s important to understand that there is no perfect green energy company, not least because no energy company in Australia can claim to only sell renewable power. The reality is that all retailers sell electricity from an energy grid made up of both clean and dirty energy, so even if you wanted to, you can’t opt in to only buy green energy. The best you can do is support one or more of the renewable energy initiatives that are available. (Some companies have previously given customers the impression they only sell green energy and it’s got them into big trouble!).

Green Energy Plans

For most of us, using energy is completely unavoidable, so when your electricity company gives you a way to turn that inevitable usage into somewhat of a good thing, it’s easy to think why not, right? Here’s a breakdown of the providers that are offering either GreenPower or general carbon offsetting.

Energy companies offering GreenPower

GreenPower is advertised as a renewable energy product, so a GreenPower plan must mean you’re getting renewable energy, right? Wrong. While it does support the generation of local renewable energy development and continuation, it does so by your provider paying into this program on your behalf, equal to what your usage is. So, in a nutshell, offsetting. Here are the companies that offer GreenPower as an addition to your energy tariff, to the amount of anywhere between 10% and 100%.

Be aware that, in most cases, GreenPower costs you more money on top of your standard energy costs, so it can be a hard sell unless you really take your personal carbon footprint seriously. The exception to this model is Nectr, which adds 100% GreenPower as standard with one of its power plans. But in most cases, you’ll pay an extra amount on your usage rate, for example 5c, for your power to be offset.

Energy companies with carbon neutral initiatives

Like with GreenPower, an energy provider can choose to carbon offset the power used by its customers by supporting renewable energy development and reducing carbon emissions. The main difference is that it’s on a global scale, and that most of the retailers below offer it free of charge. Well, so it seems anyway, given that you’ll likely pay for it in the form of higher standard costs. This means that fewer power retailers participate in carbon offset initiatives. Here they are:

  • AGL
  • DC Power Co
  • EnergyAustralia
  • Energy Locals
  • Enova Energy
  • Nectr
  • Origin Energy
  • OVO Energy
  • Powershop

The Green Electricity Guide

As mentioned above, the closest thing Australian consumers have had to an independent ranking of energy retailers based on which could be described as the ‘greenest’ in recent years came from Greenpeace and the Total Environment Centre. They released three versions of a ‘Green Electricity Guide’ which was a national and state by state ranking of electricity companies based on various relevant criteria. The Green Electricity Guide was released in 2014, 2015 and finally in 2018. Unfortunately it seems there are no immediate plans to publish an update to this latest report.

While the energy industry is fast evolving, the latest report still provides a helpful, high-level guide to which retailers are generally making positive moves in support of renewables and giving customers options to make cleaner energy decisions. 

The 2018 Green Electricity Guide listed 31 energy retailers, ranking them against the following criteria:

  • Carbon emissions
  • Support for energy sector decarbonisation
  • Carbon offset products
  • Support for local energy projects and renewable energy
  • Fossil Fuel Policy and Investment
  • Energy efficiency and demand response
  • Corporate sustainability, responsibility and transparency

Powershop and Diamond Energy both scored five stars in the 2018 Green Electricity Guide and proved the best-performing retailers over the three years of the report. You can compare plans from these providers – and many more – with our electricity comparison tool below.

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Powershop

Powershop received five stars and a near perfect score of 9.7 out of 10 in the latest Green Electricity Guide. This was an improvement of its previous score of 8.6 out of 10, which was still enough to top the previous green rankings. Powershop’s parent company, Meridian Energy, owns wind farms and hydro plants across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Powershop also has a strong public position against fossil fuels and is 100% carbon neutral.

Powershop Plans & Prices

Here are the Powershop plans on our database for Victoria. These are products from a referral partner†. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are the Powershop plans on our database for NSW. These are products from a referral partner†. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are the Powershop plans on our database for SE QLD. These are products from a referral partner†. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are the Powershop plans on our database for South Australia. These are products from a referral partner†. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Diamond Energy

Diamond Energy also received five stars in the latest Green Electricity Guide, earning a score of 9.1 out of 10, again improving on its previous score of 8.5 out of 10. Diamond Energy owns biogas power plants, as well as numerous solar and wind farms across the southern states. In fact, Diamond Energy claims to deliver more electricity sourced from renewables to the grid than its customers actually consume! The retailer also pays out up to 100c/kWh feed-in tariffs for solar customers with batteries.

Diamond Energy Plans & Prices

Here are the Diamond Energy plans on our database for NSW. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are the Diamond Energy plans on our database for Victoria. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are the Diamond Energy plans on our database for SE QLD. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

Here are the Diamond Energy plans on our database for South Australia. These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Please use our comparison tool for a specific comparison in your area. Our database may not cover all deals in your area. As always, check all details of any plan directly with the retailer before making a purchase decision.

‘The dirty three’

Australia’s largest energy retailers – Origin Energy, EnergyAustralia and AGL – hold a combined market share of over 70%. They’re labelled ‘the dirty three’ because they each have investments in coal generation and coal seam gas projects, consequently making them some of Australia’s biggest polluters. Although each company has invested millions of dollars into renewable energy projects, some industry experts and commentators believe that these companies could be doing more.

That said, these companies scored quite reasonably in the latest Green Electricity Guide, with AGL getting a particular mention as the most improved retailer.

AGL

AGL came in fifth place in the 2018 Green Electricity Guide. It received 3.5 stars and a score of 7 out of 10. This is a massive improvement on its previous ninth place ranking and 5.1 out of 10. AGL claims to be the largest ASX-listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation in Australia, but it is also Australia’s largest fossil fuel generator. That said, the Green Electricity Guide commended AGL for its recent additional investment in wind and solar farms and its commitment to close all its coal-fired generation plants by 2050 – including the controversial Liddell coal power station. AGL has also supported virtual power plant trials and is involved in developing solar and battery storage technologies.

Origin Energy

Origin Energy ranked just below AGL with an overall score of 6.8 out of 10. Origin is another major investor in both renewable energy and fossil fuels. While the Green Electricity Guide criticised its public support for mining and coal seam gas generation, Origin was commended for its support of local energy P2P trading, its range of solar products and its feed-in tariffs, and its comprehensive energy efficiency information. Origin has also committed to producing one-quarter of its generation through renewable energy sources by 2020 and exiting coal investment by 2050.

EnergyAustralia

EnergyAustralia trailed its rivals, Origin and AGL, with a score of 5.7 out of 10 in the Green Electricity Guide. Like the other big energy companies, EnergyAustralia has extensively invested in high emissions coal power stations, however, the guide claimed the retailer had no clear opposition to fossil fuels, or plans to divest in the future. The company did receive credit for offering above-average feed-in tariffs and additional carbon offset programs. It provides energy-efficiency information and takes part in demand management programs.

Full Australia-wide ‘green’ results breakdown

The total score for each retailer in the Green Electricity Guide was determined by the scores given to the retailers for each individual criteria listed at the start of this article. The following table shows their final overall rankings:

Rank Retailer Score
1 Powershop 9.7
2 Diamond Energy 9.1
3 Energy Locals 7.4
3 Enova Energy 7.4
5 AGL 7.0
6 Origin 6.8
6 Momentum Energy 6.8
8 EnergyAustralia 5.7
9 Lumo Energy 5.6
10 Powerdirect 5.5
11 Red Energy 5.4
12 Aurora Energy 5.2
13 Horizon Power 5.0
14 ActewAGL 4.9
15 Jacana 4.8
16 Ergon Energy 4.7
17 Dodo Power & Gas 4.4
17 Tango Energy 4.4
19 Commander 4.1
20 Simply Energy 4.0
21 Mojo Power 3.8
21 Click Energy 3.8
23 QEnergy 3.5
24 Amaysim Energy 3.3
25 Synergy 3.2
26 Alinta Energy 3.1
27 GloBird Energy 3.0
27 People Energy 3.0
29 Sumo Power 2.8
30 CovaU 2.3
31 1st Energy 2.0

Source: Green Electricity Guide 2018. See below for state-by-state breakdown of results.

How dirty are we?

If there’s one thing to take away from the 2018 Green Electricity Guide, it’s that energy retailers are making progress, but there is still plenty of work left to be done. While electricity companies continue to get behind renewable energy, as it stands, we are still heavily dependent on dirty coal power to meet the energy demands of a major world economy.

At least two of the ‘dirty three’ energy companies have committed to a coal-free future, hopefully setting the example for other energy companies. AGL in particular shot up in the latest Green Electricity Guide rankings, so much that it was considered the second and third greenest energy company in South Australia and Victoria respectively at the time.

As consumers, there is only so much we can personally do to improve the state of Australia’s renewable energy industry. But getting behind programs like GreenPower and carbon offsetting is clearly in our control, likewise supporting retailers that focus on renewable energy generation will help out. The challenge is making a difference without too much of an impact on your hip pocket.

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Top 10 green energy retailers by state

Some of the 31 retailers in the list above do not operate in every state. Due to this, we have broken the above list down by each state to show the greenest energy companies available in your area as judged by the 2018 Green Electricity Guide.

QLD Greenest Energy Companies

Rank Retailer Score
1 Powershop 9.7
2 Diamond Energy 9.1
3 Energy Locals 7.4
4 AGL 7.0
5 Origin 6.8
6 EnergyAustralia 5.7
7 Lumo Energy 5.6
8 Powerdirect 5.5
9 Red Energy 5.4
10 Ergon Energy 4.7

Source: Green Electricity Guide 2018

NSW Greenest Energy Companies

Rank Retailer Score
1 Powershop 9.7
2 Diamond Energy 9.1
3 Energy Locals 7.4
4 Enova Energy 7.4
5 AGL 7.0
6 Origin 6.8
7 Momentum Energy 6.8
8 EnergyAustralia 5.7
9 Lumo Energy 5.6
10 Powerdirect 5.5

Source: Green Electricity Guide 2018

VIC Greenest Energy Companies

Rank Retailer Score
1 Powershop 9.7
2 Diamond Energy 9.1
3 AGL 7.0
4 Origin 6.8
5 Momentum Energy 6.8
6 EnergyAustralia 5.7
7 Lumo Energy 5.6
8 Powerdirect 5.5
9 Red Energy 5.4
10 Dodo 4.4

Source: Green Electricity Guide 2018

SA Greenest Energy Companies

Rank Retailer Score
1 Diamond Energy 9.1
2 AGL 7.0
3 Origin 6.8
4 Momentum Energy 6.8
5 EnergyAustralia 5.7
6 Lumo Energy 5.6
7 Powerdirect 5.5
8 Red Energy 5.4
9 Dodo 4.4
10 Commander 4.1

Source: Green Electricity Guide 2018

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