Our gas supply contract came up for renewal this year, so I took this opportunity to research what the most environmentally friendly option would be. Natural gas is a fossil fuel; a non-renewable resource. Sourcing and using this responsibly goes right to the heart of our environmental policy.
In my opinion there aren’t many suitable alternatives to gas for heating. Using electricity is very inefficient- a significant amount is lost in transit. Biomass - these include agricultural and crop residues and animal waste- is an alternative. While in theory it sounds good, my concern about biomass is that it encourages using resources to grow energy crops. It is possible to create natural gas using other waste sources. Ecotricity, a UK pioneer in ‘green gas’ supply estimate that they could power 20% of UK homes from the following sources-
Household Food Waste
Brewing Industry effluents and wastes
Kerbside collections of Green Waste and Kitchen Waste
Catering Industry Wastes
Organic Market Wastes
Sewage Treatment Works sludges
The problem is that they're not there yet. At the moment, Ecotricity need to import Green Gas from Holland and this accounts for around 5% of their fuel mix. However, we want to support their plans to develop Green Gasmills in the UK so we were very keen to switch to them. Unfortunately, our demand was beyond what they normally accept for business supply. However, when I called them up and explained why we wanted to switch to them and about our company, they were able to get a special dispensation from their Directors to bring us on board. So from the end of May, we'll be buying our gas with their Green Gas tariff.
The graph below shows the UK’s electricity mix. The increase in renewables in the last few years is encouraging, as is the decrease in coal. However the latter has mostly been due to the increase in gas which, though cleaner than coal, is a finite resource and could be just as harmful if the UK starts to exploit shale gas through fracking. The government’s target for this year was for 10% of electricity to be generated from renewables.
While we were at it, I thought that we should review our electricity supply. We have been with a great company- Green Energy- for years, buying our Electricity on their Deep Green (100% renewable) tariff. Green Energy are a small company that specialise in helping getting more micogenerated electricity onto the grid by working with other small businesses. A good example of what they do is working with farmers who use agricultural waste to produce electricity. We think that this is great, but we're also impressed with Ecotricity's commitment to put 66p per £1 billed towards building new renewable capacity. Ecotricity has become a major player in the UK energy market and, as such, have far reaching impact. In the end, we decided to switch our electricity to Ecotricity as well. We also hope that by giving them our business we can further contribute to getting green gas production in the UK.
What sealed the deal for us is looking at the fuel mix of UK suppliers for the past 7 years. Since 2005 all companies have had to disclose their fuel mix. Ecotricity has steadily increased their renewable supply from 17.4% in 2005/06 up to 64.3% in 2011/12 (see graph below). This shows a real commitment to renewable energy and real results. You can see full disclosure data here.