Fuel Mix Disclosure: where does your supplier get its electricity from?
When deciding on an energy supplier, we are increasingly likely to consider how eco-friendly it is.
We like to know where the electricity we use comes from and how much impact it’s production has had on the environment.
Sensing the possibilities to harvest new, eco-conscious customers, energy suppliers are moving heaven and earth to appear more sustainable, whether it’s using pig farms to generate gas or planting forests of trees.
But how do you sift through the press releases to find out how green an energy provider really is?
Well, a good place to start is the Fuel Mix Disclosure.
What is a Fuel Mix Disclosure?
Any electricity we use in our homes is sourced from a mixture of fuels, such as nuclear, coal and renewables (water, wind and solar).
Some suppliers get more electricity from one source than others; think of it like the labels on your food which explain your how much sugar or salt the product contains.
Since 2005, under rules brought in by the industry regulator Ofgem, British suppliers are required to publish the mix of fuels used to generate the electricity it supplies, plus any effect it has had on the environment
They must do so by October 1 each year.
How is the Fuel Mix calculated?
Fuel sources are shown as a percentage and typically displayed on a pie chart.
Environmental impact is displayed in the carbon dioxide gases (CO2) that are released for each kWh of electricity generated.
Even a glance at a supplier’s Fuel Mix can tell you a lot about how green it is.
Does it source most of its electricity from coal, for example? Coal is the worst fuel source for the environment as it’s the most carbon intensive.
Nuclear and renewable power generate no CO2, but the Fuel Mix should tell you about any high-level radioactive waste generated as a result of the generation of the electricity they supply.
The table, however, does not consider lifecycle emissions. For nuclear power, for example, there are CO2 emissions related to the building of plants and the mining and processing of the uranium fuel, which you might want to take into account.
And it won’t tell you about the significant amount of medium and low-level waste produced by nuclear plants generating electricity.
But, as a basic barometer, The Fuel Mix is pretty useful, allowing consumers to compare a supplier’s fuel source with the national average, and make a quick assessment of how well it stacks up to its rivals.
How do I find out a company’s Fuel Mix?
Energy suppliers differ wildly in their fuel mixes.
British Gas, for example, sources 31% of its electricity from nuclear and 23% for renewables.
Challenger brand First Utility gets just 12.9% of its power from nuclear, but 28.3% from renewable sources.
We’ve included the Fuel Mix Disclosures of most major and smaller suppliers in our Company Reviews.
Our Reviews also give you extra background on how renewable a supplier is, information you won’t learn from the Fuel Mix table alone.
You can also find the Fuel Mix on the supplier’s website; as we said earlier, they’re obliged to publish it under official rules. Just Google 'Company Name Fuel Mix Disclosure'.
What does it mean for me?
By being able to compare how a company generates its electricity, you can make an informed decision about who to switch to.
Read our reviews to find an eco-friendly supplier and then run an energy comparison on A Spokesman Said.
A growing number of suppliers offer 100% renewable electricity, so it’s an exciting time to be a green energy hunter.
But if you do want to go green, be prepared to pay a premium. 100% renewable electricity tariffs, like those offered by Ecotricity and Bulb, are often considerably pricier than the market’s cheapest.
As ever, it’s finding that balance between sustainability and price.
It’s important to bear in mind that the energy that comes out of your socket is an average of all the suppliers’ fuel mixes - it’s a standardised mix of all the energy that is put into the grid.
But opting for a supplier with a bigger chunk of the Fuel Mix devoted to renewables is still an effective way to make a statement about how you think energy should be generated.
It will mean more renewable energy is pumped into the grid, increasing the proportion of sustainable energy used by the UK as a whole.