Consumers confused over green energy, survey reveals

New research commissioned by energy firm Squeaky has revealed that UK energy customers are confused about what terms like ‘green’, ‘renewable’ and ‘sustainable’ really mean.

In a survey of over 2,000 UK energy customers, 43% believed ‘renewable energy’ to mean energy from sources which are non-polluting, sustainable or carbon neutral.

Squeaky has said that many energy providers use ‘renewable’ to describe energy from ‘dirty’ sources including biomass, which involves burning wood or waste and which releases both solid carbon particulates and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and research has been suggested are more environmentally damaging than burning coal.

Only 34% of the respondents knew that renewable energy includes biomass, in contrast to 85% who believed renewable to be sourced from solar and wind power, and 75% who believed that also included hydropower.

When offered an explanation of what biomass fuel is, only 23% of respondents agreed that it could be suitably interpreted as ‘green’ energy.

Squeaky is now calling on energy industry regulator Ofgem to develop and enforce a clear standard labelling system for energy products, similar to the colour-coded nutritional information on pre-packaged food.

Chris Bowden, founder of Squeaky said: ‘Recent investigations have revealed that consumers are being hoodwinked into buying energy which they think is non-polluting.

‘Not only do domestic and small business customers have to battle with a variety of misleading claims and poorly presented information, they are then being charged a premium for what they believe is environmentally friendly energy which can more polluting than coal.

‘We want to see clean up the energy market and give customers a simple and clear way to understand energy sources and make informed decisions about where they buy their energy from.’

Squeaky has proposed using the following definitions to reduce consumer confusion:

Clean Energy

  • Energy that is derived from natural, non-polluting, UK resources that are capable of being replenished in a short time scale, such as wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal and hydropower.

Renewable Energy

  • Energy that is derived from non-fossil sources: wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydropower, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogases, and can be imported from overseas.

Standard Energy

  • Energy that is derived from all forms of generation including oil, coal, gas, nuclear and renewable energy.


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