Did you hear the news? The UK stopped creating energy from burning coal for 2 months during lockdown. It’s fantastic to hear, but what does it mean for us? We don’t see energy, so it’s not quite as satisfying as filling our recycling bin or making an upcycled purchase. Yet, energy plays a significant role in our carbon footprint at home. Many of us are on the energy tariff we’ve always had, and we only switch to get a better deal. Today we’re here to show you the option you have when it comes to the energy that supplies your home. More so, why you should consider a green option when you switch energy suppliers.
There are many varieties of energy. Not to mention tons of different suppliers to choose from too! In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at the different types of energy and why some are perhaps not as innocent as you might think. That way, when you switch energy suppliers, you can narrow down your search depending on where your energy comes from.
Switch energy suppliers: Do they use coal?
It’s one type of energy most of us are familiar with, especially those whose families used to work in the mines in the North. Coal supported communities for hundreds of years, but eventually we began to understand the impact it was making. Not just on the health of miners, but the local community and the environment in general. Perhaps we always knew. Remember that being naughty puts you on Santa’s list with a gift of COAL for Christmas.
Our ancestors didn’t really have a choice in using coal, and probably didn’t appreciate the impact it made. So, how does it impact us negatively?
For starters, we dig in the ground for coal, and the earth holds a lot of carbon. By digging up coal, we release carbon into the atmosphere, but that’s nothing. The coal that we transform into electrical energy can be made up from as much as 87% carbon. How do we harness that energy? Yes, we burn it.
Coal is the most CO2 intensive fossil fuel; it’s cheap and available in abundance, which is why we’ve been using it for decades. In the UK we’ve done a lot to reduce our reliance on coal to make energy. But, it seems we’re still falling into the same habits as the first coal mine in 30 years is set to move forward.
The carbon emissions from coal are the reasons why, in the UK, we’ve been working hard towards eliminating the use of coal in energy supplies. UK coal burning levels are now as low as they once were 300 years ago. Make sure when you switch energy suppliers, you’re not choosing one of the last few suppliers still using coal as a resource.
Switch energy suppliers: Do they use oil?
This type of energy source is relatively old for heating our homes, but in some cases there’s no alternative to provide heat; in fact, 71% of oil is used in transportation systems such as cars and planes these days. However, some suppliers still use oil as a form of energy. Using oil is similar to buying a pair of shoes. Five sizes too big, they do a job but not necessarily the one you want or need.
Oil is a non-renewable resource; it takes millions of years to form. Once it’s gone, there’s no more, so it’s a precious asset that we should use sparingly. Consider that there are lots of renewable energy resources out there – why would you choose to use oil? Your heating will turn on the same, and you’ll still have a hot running tap, you’ll just be using a resource that is in abundance and can be renewed over and over again.
Switch energy suppliers: Do they use natural gas?
Oil and natural gas have a very similar story. They both start in the ground, having taken millions of years to form and the same process retrieves them. Natural gas is a by-product of oil extraction. It used to be burned and released into the atmosphere but now it’s harnessed and used in our homes.
While it has roughly half the amount of CO2 as coal, it has a lot of methane in it, which is 24 times more harmful to our environment than CO2. Its name is somewhat deceiving, ‘natural’ gas. Similar to why the word biodegradable is destructive – it leads us to believe that the product is good for us and the planet, but that’s not always the case.
Natural gas is potentially better for the environment than coal, and it’s more available than oil, but it’s not the best option when you switch energy suppliers.
We’re finally here, at the renewable energy sources that don’t have such a harsh impact on our environment. Renewables now produce more than 20% of our electricity in the UK.
This energy source harnesses the effect of water and is renewable because of the sun’s impact on the water cycle. Hydropower or hydroelectricity uses two different hydro plants. One method is dams and the other is ‘run of river’—both use flowing water to help electromagnetic turbines create energy.
Hydroelectricity from a dam is considered more reliable as the barriers can control the flow of water and send water upstream as well as down. Whereas ‘flow of river’ works with nature and gravity so energy can be intermittent.
Although we call this energy form renewable, it does come with some setbacks. Damming a river can harm wildlife that lives nearby, whether that is by reshaping the landscape or blocking the waterways for fish. In addition, a dam failure can be catastrophic, flooding the nearby areas and damaging local communities.
It’s important to mention that hydro plants are also not completely free of greenhouse gas emissions. During construction, CO2 is released into the atmosphere, primarily down to the excessive use of cement. Methane is also released when the newly-flooded plant life begins to decay underwater.
It might not come as a surprise to you, but solar power is the most abundant renewable energy resource in the world. Every day is another opportunity to harness the power from the sun and convert it into electric and thermal power. Better yet, no greenhouse gases are emitted when harnessing solar energy.
“If it’s so great, why aren’t we all using it?” we hear you ask. Well, you only have to look at the sky for that answer. We don’t enjoy rays of sunshine continuously here in the UK, and depending on the time of year, we can go weeks without a sunny day which dramatically reduces the efficiency of solar panels. The ability to reliably get all your energy from solar power is relatively low, which is why other forms of energy are essential to help support it. Nonetheless, solar power is a great way to help power your home, and the cost of setting it up has decreased a lot in recent years. It’s one of the reasons we now see solar farms popping up around the country. Miles of land used for creating renewable energy.
Solar energy costs have decreased by 90% since 2009. It’s more affordable than ever and a great option to consider when switching energy suppliers. Your entire supply might not be made from solar, but to harness some of it from the sun is a great option.
We’ve been using the power of wind for decades and while the grand wind turbine structures we see today are relatively new, the traditional windmill is a firm historical favourite. Wind, like solar, is a great renewable energy that emits zero greenhouse gases.
However, like solar, it also can be intermittent. The wind is not always blowing but placing these turbines in optimal positions can help boost production. As a nation, Great Britain has the potential to become the centre of wind energy. Our coastlines are famous for their windy shores as air travels across the vast oceans and seas to reach us.
During the pandemic, there has been lots of discussion surrounding the need for a green recovery and many people believe wind power could be the answer for Britain. It could well be that wind power is the future of the sector in the UK so when you switch energy suppliers, be sure to keep an eye out for a deal that harnesses wind.
Have you heard that our waste is now being used to harness energy? This renewable source is renewable when it is from a sustainable source. As humans, we will continue to make waste that can be burned for energy such as food scraps, wood, plants and other organic material it falls into the renewable category. We know what you’re thinking, “burning, isn’t that bad?”. The answer is that biomass energy does release CO2 into the environment, but it is a fraction of the amount in comparison to coal.
Studies have shown that the use of biomass, while relatively low in comparison to other renewable energies, could provide 60% of global renewable energy by 2030. The energy source is exceptionally versatile so can transform into electricity, heat units and even as a liquid fuel. When we create biomass energy from waste materials, it helps to build a circular economy which is why it’s considered a good energy source. Still, there are some concerns wherein certain supply chains; it is not sustainably sourced. Some plant fields are grown for the sole purpose of chopping them down and burning them for energy.
Thanks for reading – here’s 50 points
Greenredeem is now more rewarding. You can now earn points for reading our greener living articles. Simply COPY & PASTE the points code below & then head back to the activities section to claim your points.