The fight against greenwashed energy tariffs is heating up. One of the UK’s largest energy suppliers, Scottish Power, has recently criticised greenwashing – the practice of buying near-worthless renewable certificates (called REGOs) to make a brown tariff appear green.
This loophole has allowed some suppliers to get away with offering ‘100% renewable’ tariffs without actually buying any renewable power, which is clearly misleading to customers. Scottish Power adding its voice to the cause is good news and helps validate an argument we at Good Energy have repeatedly made against this practice.
The company also announced last week that all its domestic fixed tariffs will be supplied by 100% renewable power from its own projects. On the face of it, this too looks like good news.
But Scottish Power has multiple tariffs and an estimated customer base of 5 million households. This means it will still need to buy large amounts of power – possibly from fossil fuel or nuclear plants - to meet the energy demands of customers. And then there is the question of ‘shuffling’.
When a new customer joins a green tariff many suppliers simply reallocate, or shuffle, existing green power away from the standard tariff onto the ‘100% renewable’ one without buying any extra green power
Introducing the ‘Greenshuffle’
Scottish Power’s wind farms produce enough green power for 1.5 million homes. If they have fewer than 1.5 million customers on their new green tariffs (which given they only launched last week, seems likely) then some of that green power will be used in their other tariffs. If you are on one of these tariffs, you will be getting a mix of green and brown power.
What many suppliers do, by way of an accounting trick, is when a new customer joins a green tariff, they simply reallocate, or shuffle, existing green power away from the standard tariff, onto the ‘100% renewable’ one, and then buy some brown power to replace it. This means the standard one actually loses some of its greenness, but they’ve still managed to sign up another green customer without having to buy any extra green power. This idea is nothing new, in fact we wrote about it back in 2017, at the same time we launched our original greenwashing campaign.
Of course, only those working at Scottish Power know how they are operated, and we’d welcome clarity. The company is promising to “reinvest money made from the green tariffs in new renewable generation”. Let’s hope this is true. But if they really want to demonstrate their environmental credentials, the answer is simple: offer nothing but genuinely 100% renewable power to all customers.