What is Renewable Energy? (Green Energy Explained)

12th March 2018

By James Story

Renewable energy is one of the most widely-discussed topics of today. From saving the planet to saving those hard-earned pennies, there are many reasons to go green in the home. With global warming being one of the biggest threats to the environment, causing melting ice caps, rising sea levels and more droughts, it’s important for everyone to consider renewable energy options very seriously.

But what exactly is renewable energy? How do we find the most cost-effective way of cutting carbon emissions in the average home? And what are the long-term benefits for homeowners as well as the world around us? Here we delve into the nitty gritty details of going green with your energy plan, the main suppliers out there, and how to find the best renewable energy deals online.


What Does Renewable Energy Mean?

The definition of renewable energy is: energy that is generated from natural and non-depleting resources. This means that it is derived from natural processes such as the sun, wind or water. Sources that, as far as we understand, are infinite.

Unlike fossil fuels which do not regenerate, these sources will never run out and thus will not cause a decline in the earth’s natural resources. Additionally, renewables dramatically cut the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, as well as other greenhouse gases, so they are cleaner and safer for the environment.

Not to be confused with the term ‘sustainable energy’, renewable energy usually relates to a very specific set of sources. Sustainable energy is a much looser term which can refer to a wide range of technologies, whilst renewables include these main groups: biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind energy and solar energy.

These alternatives to using fossil fuels mean that homes and business can now reduce their carbon footprint significantly, meaning they can contribute to the carbon emissions reduction as required in the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008. Under the Act, the UK’s target is to cut emissions by 80% by 2050 and renewable solutions can help us achieve that target.



What Are the Advantages of Renewable Energy?

There are many reasons to switch to renewables. With more green companies joining the energy market, it’s time for homeowners to think seriously about making the change. In recent years, the UK has invested billions of pounds into the renewables sector, with a recorded £29.8 billion invested from 2010 to 2013 and over 90% of funds going to renewable electricity generation (including onshore and offshore wind farms, solar PV, and biomass).

Whether you wish to generate your own electricity at home or simply switch to a green supplier, this is a great time to make the move and end fossil fuel dependency once and for all. Here are some of the advantages to consider:


Environmental/Social Benefits

Save the world’s resources – renewables are non-depleting natural sources of energy, making them safe and kind to our planet.

Lower carbon emissions – reducing your carbon footprint and decreasing greenhouse gases can help to reverse the problems caused by global warming. Global warming is a threat to the environment, wildlife, and the economy. Going carbon neutral is the best way of preventing these problems from escalating further.

Improve public health – generating electricity from renewable sources has many benefits for overall public health. In fact, pollution in the air and water caused by fossil fuels has been linked to respiratory problems, neurological damage, cancer and other diseases.

Create jobs in the green energy sector – renewables is still a relatively new sector within the energy market and by switching, you can contribute to job creation tackling unemployment in towns and cities everywhere.

Improve the energy market – the market is currently dominated by the ‘Big Six’ companies who have control over pricing and availability. Many nations rely on fossil fuels but diversifying the market with renewables can help to provide countries with energy independence.


Homeowner Benefits

Reduce your energy bills – the biggest draw perhaps (other than saving the planet) is the opportunity to save money on your energy bills. These savings can be significant, making it worth your while to switch.

Get subsidies for going green – if your home has solar panels or a biomass boiler installed, you could get money towards the cost of your heating through the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Earn money with green energy – the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) allows homeowners with their own energy generation (such as wind turbines or solar panels) to get money back for surplus power.

Enjoy market diversity – renewables bring a sense of variety to the energy market, giving you more choice and control as the consumer.                                                 


Are There Any Disadvantages to Think About?

The answer to this question is, unfortunately, yes. There are so many fantastic benefits to choosing a green supplier over a traditional provider. With the chance to save the environment whilst also saving money, it seems like a no brainer, but here are some things you may need to bear in mind before you switch.

Not all green tariffs are 100% renewable – not all green tariffs are totally renewable so it’s wise to check a supplier’s fuel mix. However, they do get a larger proportion of their power from renewable resources, making them a sustainable and eco-friendly choice.

Green tariffs are fixed – getting a fixed tariff isn’t always the most desirable option for energy customers. However, many fixed green tariffs still work out to be much cheaper than metered energy. 

Generating your own electricity is an expensive investment – if you decide to install renewable energy equipment, you will be required to fork out for the initial costs.


What Are Different Green Energy Options?

There are two ways that you can harness the power of green energy for your home or business. You can either switch to a green energy supplier or you can invest in a renewable installation on your property.

Green Tariffs

If you want to reduce your impact on the environment, green tariffs are definitely worth looking into. These tariffs ensure that some or all of their energy comes from renewable sources. The important thing to remember is that moving to a green tariff doesn’t mean that your energy is 100% renewable and it doesn’t always guarantee carbon-free electricity.

Therefore, green tariffs are by no means a substitute for energy efficiency measures in the home. Whichever way you look at it, though, this is still a much more sustainable option than traditional energy plans.


Renewable Installations  

Installing renewable equipment at home is a great way of saving or even earning money. Here are some of the most common installations:

Solar panels – after the initial outlay, running and maintenance costs are actually very low. Solar panels are also able to generate electricity in cloudy conditions and can add value to your property when it comes to selling.

Wind turbines – if you have at least one acre of land and live in a location with a suitable climate, a wind system could be a great way of generating electricity for your home. Small turbines could reduce your energy bills by as much as 90%.

Hydroelectricity – a hydropower system is usually enough to provide total power for one household, with a 10-kilowatt system able to power a small resort or small farm. Be sure to factor in planning permits and water rights before installing.


Green Energy Suppliers in the UK

The ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers continue to dominate the market as the UK’s largest and longest-running private energy companies. These companies are British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower, Scottish Power and SSE. They supply over 90% of British households with gas and electricity. Many of them do not offer green tariffs so if you are looking for sustainable energy options, it’s important to shop around.

There are many reputable independent companies that have a commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Here are a few of them:

Good energy

An ethical supplier of electricity and gas using natural sources such as wind, solar and tidal.


One of the first companies to introduce a 100% green electricity tariff.

Bulb Energy

A newcomer to the market promising 100% renewable electricity (and 10% renewable gas).

OVO Energy

Voted the ‘Energy Supplier of the Year’ for three consecutive years.

Green Star Energy

Offering a number of different tariffs to help eco-friendly customers save money.

Pure Planet

A green energy provider that promises to cut 50% of your home’s carbon footprint, with an average of 20% off your monthly bills.


This company only offer electricity that is 100% renewable and only work with ethical suppliers in their fuel mix.


How to Find the Best Renewable Energy Tariffs

The green energy companies listed above are just a few of the trusted providers. If you want to find the best green energy tariff, we recommend using a gas and electricity comparison tool. Online search tools are fantastic for customers who want to save money on their utility bills. These tools also give users a chance do a little background research on the companies in question.

Plus, the giffgaff energy comparison page is particularly handy for eco-conscious customers who want to view a diverse portfolio of renewable energy suppliers. It also includes all the major companies for those who want to compare green tariffs with traditional tariffs.

For even more cost savings, it could be worth looking into the Economy 7 meter, compatible with a number of companies (including some of the top green providers).

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