How green is your electricity?

With global warming sceptics finally beginning to take their heads out of the increasingly hot sand, attention is shifting to what individuals can do to slow the looming disaster. Buying renewable energy for your home is one option.

‘GreenPower’ is the federal government’s term for electricity generated by accredited renewable energy sources – wind, solar, hydro or biomass. When you buy GreenPower, your supplier agrees to source the amount you nominate from renewable sources, rather than from coal, and feed it into the electricity grid. This reduces CO2 emissions and supports the renewable energy industry.

Short of helping Bob Brown take over John Howard’s body, you’ll do the most to stop Australia from frying if you buy (a) 100% accredited GreenPower and (b) power produced by ‘new’ renewable energy, ie generators built after 1 January 1997, not that from ‘existing’ or ‘old’ sources. Example: A company purchasing hydro from the Snowy may say that it’s providing 100% renewable energy, but because it’s been around for a while it isn’t reducing our current carbon emissions, so it won’t be 100% GreenPower accredited.

Green Electricity Watch (greenelectricitywatch.org.au) assesses GreenPower products to see which are green and which are simply greenwash. According to the 2006 report, Origin’s GreenEarth Solar and GreenEarth Wind, and TRU’s WindPower, are the greenest, but they’re not available in all states. The federal government’s web site, greenpower.gov.au, lists all accredited GreenPower suppliers, by state.

New planets aren’t cheap, and fossil fool industries get thirty times more handouts from governments than renewable industries do, so if you buy 100 per cent GreenPower, you’ll pay more than you would for coal. If you can’t afford to go fully green, you can always choose a percentage of GreenPower. Also beware that energy companies are engaging in sneaky tactics to nab their share of the green market. One company that appeared on my doorstep told me that I could get 100% renewable energy for 2% less than coal. It sounded too good to be true and, sure enough, it was.

Lee O’Mahoney

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