We use electricity in our homes on a daily basis – but for many of us, it’s unlikely we give much thought as to where that power actually comes from.
It’s worth remembering that other fuels are used to generate electricity. And those fuels include coal, gas, nuclear power and renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind.
With widespread concerns about climate change, pollution and the risks associated with nuclear energy therefore make electricity generation a potentially controversial topic.
This explains why our energy suppliers are legally obliged to tell us which fuels they use to produce the electricity they sell us. The thinking is that, armed with this information, we can choose a tariff that suits our preferences as far as the is environment concerned.
The mix of fuels used in the generation of electricity is shown on our bills, statements and in other accessible places (such as websites) in percentage terms for coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable sources. Updates must be provided at least annually.
Suppliers are also required to provide information regarding carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the levels of radioactive waste produced by the generation process.
The rules apply regardless of which type of meter or tariff you have. If you have a pre-payment meter, you will be provided with the particular fuel mix at the time of your annual statement.
So, for example, the fuel mix breakdown of a particular energy tariff may look like this:
In the example above, the use of renewable energy sources is relatively low compared to, say, the burning of coal, which produces a high amount of CO2. Knowing this might influence your decision to move to a greener tariff.
Remember that, even if you move to the greenest of tariffs, where electricity is generated from renewable sources that have little or no ongoing carbon footprint, your power is still drawn from the national grid in the same way as everyone else’s. But you have the satisfaction on knowing that more ‘green’ energy is being fed into the grid to satisfy demand from people such as yourself.
In other words, you can choose a tariff according to how you want your supplier to use the money you spend on your bills. The more people move to tariffs that rely on greener fuel mixes to generate electricity, the more the energy industry will invest in environmentally-friendly power sources.
Changes in the UK’s electricity generation fuel mix
The trigger for a sea-change in the way we as a country think about how we generate our electricity was the Climate Change Act 2008.
This legislation introduced measures to decarbonise the country’s economy by reducing emissions of CO2 and promoting the use of renewable energy sources.
According to Energy UK, the trade association for the UK energy sector, the years since the passing of the Act have seen:
- A reduction in the use of coal to generate all our electricity from 33% in 2008 to 7% in 2017 (the latest year for which figures are available)
- An increase in the generation of electricity from low carbon sources from 20% in 2008 to 30% today
- An increase in England’s renewable capacity from 2,618 megawatts in 2008 to 25,801 megawatts in 2017
- A 50% reduction in in greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.
In May/June 2019, according to the National Grid, the UK generated electricity for 18 consecutive days without burning coal.
This followed extended periods of coal-free generation of up to a week earlier in April and May.
You can compare electricity and gas prices and check the fuel mix of the particular tariff you are interested in online through MoneySupermarket’s energy channel.
Switching energy suppliers is straightforward, so if you find a deal you want to move to you can arrange the switch online.
Switch and save with Energy Monitor
Switching your energy supplier is quicker and easier with MoneySuperMarket’s Energy Monitor. We’ll let you know as soon as there’s a cheaper tariff available for you, so you can effortlessly switch and save money on your energy bill.