Everything you need to know about choosing the right renewable energy supplier

5 minute guide

Have you switched to green or renewable energy at home? Do you know how? Do you understand how renewable energy even works? Our expert, Rhian Evans, talks us through everything you need to know about renewable energy suppliers in the UK so you compare and switch with ease.

Rhian Evans 24 January 2019


Switching to an alternative energy supplier is one of the easiest green changes you can make to help you to embrace a more sustainable life.

There are plenty of green energy options out there. Whether you’re cost-conscious and need to keep on top of your bills or you’re happy spending that little bit more to make as eco-friendly and ethical a decision as possible, you can make a sustainable statement with your energy bill whilst reducing your household carbon footprint.

Switching to renewable energy suppliers can seem like a bit of a murky business if you’ve not done it before, but it’s actually very simple.

To help you compare the best green energy options, I’ve done all the hard work for you. 

Here’s everything you need to know when switching to a renewable energy supplier.

  • How does the energy market work in the UK?
  • Who are the top energy suppliers in the UK
  • How to choose an energy supplier in the UK?
How To Choose Renewable Energy Supplier

The best renewable energy suppliers in the UK are actually easy to swap to

How does renewable energy supply in the UK work?

Sources of renewable electricity in the UK include solar, hydro and wind.

As an island, the UK does particularly well in generating energy from wind, with both onshore and offshore wind energy capacity growing rapidly in the last few years.

Wind and hydro sources offer a fairly steady supply, whereas solar has peaks and troughs. Overall though, through a combination of the existing technologies and some exciting new options that are being developed, renewable electricity is becoming a very real contender against the traditional methods of electricity generation via burning fossil fuels which of course, lead to high carbon emissions.

Green gas from sustainable sources has also become available in the past few years. Green gas is most commonly sourced from anaerobic digesters and biomass units, where the gas is produced as a by-product of waste, bio materials breaking down or being burnt. It’s harder to produce and gather this greener gas in high quantities than it is to work with sources of renewable electricity, so many green energy suppliers commit to providing just a proportion of their gas supply from this source. 

How To Choose Renewable Energy Supplier1
“Due to the way energy in the UK works, you unfortunately won’t be getting the renewable energy direct to your sockets and laptop”

Some 100% green gas tariffs are available, but they do come at a cost. As 100% green energy is difficult, most fully renewable suppliers invest in carbon offsetting schemes to balance out the emissions produced by their customer base.

So, unless you’ve installed your own solar panels or small-scale wind turbine, how does all this clean energy reach your home?

Due to the way energy in the UK works, you unfortunately won’t be getting the renewable energy direct to your sockets and laptop. Instead, the renewable energy enters the National Grid and is distributed to homes and businesses from there. Once the energy has been transported into the grid, it’s not possible to tell what has come from sustainable sources and what hasn’t.

However, as more people purchase from renewable energy suppliers or choose green tariffs, the suppliers have to go out and source renewable energy to meet the demand. As such, increase in demand should increase the supply of renewable energy entering the grid, cleaning up the energy supply that we as a country all benefit from.

As with many sustainable choices you can make, switching to a renewable energy supplier is altruistic and requires many people coming together to make a real, noticeable difference – but it all starts somewhere. With you.

"Ecotricity markets itself as the only energy supplier in the UK that is recognised by The Vegan Society"

How do I choose and compare a renewable energy supplier?

Once you’ve decided to make the switch to renewable energy, you’ll find that there are a few options available.

Some suppliers specialise in renewable energy supply, whereas others offer green tariffs and plans.

Top 3 renewable energy suppliers in the UK

Good Energy and Ecotricity are the oldest renewable energy suppliers in the UK.

As they invest in and work directly with renewable generators themselves, then they are up there as the greenest choices available to UK customers.

They both offer 100% renewable electricity generated in the UK, as well as green gas options.

In addition, Ecotricity markets itself as the only energy supplier in the UK that is recognised by The Vegan Society. They monitor the supply of their ‘vegan energy’ to ensure that no animal by-products such as animal slurry or manure are used in generating gas in aerobic digesters and biomass. 

How To Choose Renewable Energy Supplier 2

The UK has a lot of different renewable energy suppliers - and it's not hard to switch

Alternately, Good Energy has a focus on local supply chain, ensuring a fair price for generators and reduced emissions. Both of these suppliers come at a slightly higher price point, but they are considered to be the greenest, most ethical suppliers to switch to due to their work to actually increase renewable energy generation capacity for the UK.

You might also have heard of Bulb, a renewable energy supplier that has grown rapidly in the last few years. C

Currently the number one rated energy supplier on TrustPilot, Bulb, like Good Energy and Ecotricity, promises to ‘make sure that for every unit of electricity you use, a unit is produced and put on the grid by a renewable source’. Bulb is a young, digital company, so if you switch to them all your interactions will be online, including submitting meter readings, and payment is made via Direct Debit. They’re well known for their ‘refer a friend’ scheme, offering £50 to both parties when a switch is made, a great way of increasing demand for renewable sources.

Other green suppliers include:

  • Green Network Energy. It’s Italian owned and currently competitively priced.
  • Octopus Energy, owned by Octopus Investments, the UK’s largest investor in solar energy
  • Pure Planet, who, like many of their pure green competitors, also say no to nuclear and fracking.
  • OVO Energy allows consumers to pick semi-green tariffs for the cost-conscious. It offers Energy offers 33% or 100% renewable electricity on all of their plans, with only a slight price difference between the tariffs.
How To Choose Renewable Energy Supplier 3

How are you choosing to power your home?

Only some of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers – British Gas, Npower, EDF, Eon, SSE and Scottish Power – have started to take notice of the public demand for renewable energy.

Scottish Power are doing the most, as they announced in 2018 that they are making the move to producing 100% renewable electricity.

Ultimately, you have to do the research to find out which supplier is right for you. Every supplier has to display their fuel mix on their website, which shows a breakdown of where all of their energy was sourced from in the past year. This is a great way for you to start getting an understanding of a supplier and how much work they’re putting into being sustainable. Many price comparison websites now let you filter your quotes to find only the ‘green plans’, so this can help you find an affordable, sustainable supplier. And when you do decide to switch, it will only take a few minutes of your time – the planet will thank you for it. 

Rhian Evans is a writer who has spent time in the renewable energy industry and wants to help people understand it better.

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