Green energy: a saving for the planet and the pocket
GREEN energy made up 20% of French electricity production towards the end of last year, moving close to the government’s target of 23%. Coming after 2015 where the total was just 14.9%, it is a remarkable turnaround as the country moves to end its dependence on nuclear.
Renewable power sources such as hydro- electricity, wind-power, solar power and biomass produced 19.5% of the electricity used in the third quarter of 2016 giving a total of 19.3terrawatt hours of current.
The improvement comes after the installation during the quarter of 293MW of wind turbines with 103MW of solar power farms, 12MW of biomass production and 9MW of hydro-electric.
Hundreds of thousands of customers, small and large businesses are playing a role in encouraging renewable energy by signing up for ‘green energy’ electricity tariffs that can be both clean and cheaper than regulated tariffs.
However, the energy they receive does not come directly from a solar power farm or a hydro-electric dam but is from the same power supply as the rest of France with the key difference that the equivalent of their usage has been pumped into the national grid by green power suppliers.
This works in two ways: the most common is that green suppliers buy European renewable electricity supply certificates on the open market and these garanties sur l’origine verte certify green energy put into the French system. In the other case, one company, Enercoop, deals directly with green power producers and their energy output is supplied to the national grid.
Green tariffs help open the energy market and encourage renewable power sources and can also often mean savings on tariffs – although some are also more expensive than EDF’s ‘regulated’ tariff, which is used by four out of five consumers.
Consumer magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs ran its eye over the different offers and shared its findings with The Connexion revealing the benefits and costs for different-sized households.
EDF’s Tarif Bleu is the tarif réglementé set by the government and for a couple living in a 60m2 flat using electricity for white goods and lighting only (2,000kWh per year, 6kVA power) will cost €386 a year. For a couple living in a 45m2 flat using electricity for all needs (5,000kWh, 6kVA) the cost is €821 while a family of three living in a 100m2 flat using electricity for all needs (8,000kWh, 9kVA, HP-HC tariff with 3,000kWh off-peak) will pay €1,279.
Of 11 ‘green’ deals used in its study, 60 Millions found four were more expensive than the regulated tariff and seven cheaper.
The cheapest was from Alterna, whose Idéa Verte was €98 cheaper for the family but is only really for large-scale users as its monthly subscription is relatively dear.
Next were Lampiris (100% Energie verte) and EkWateur (Electricité renouvelable) which saved the family €68 and €64 but Lampiris gave couples better savings: €43 on 5,000kWh and €17 for the 2,000kWh against cuts of €25 and €10 for EkWateur.
Engie, the former GDF-Suez, came close to EkWateur for the cost of supplying the couples but had only €37 savings for the family. Unusually, it has a tariff for households with a Linky smart meter fitted
(see below), giving electricity 30% cheaper at weekends and off-peak and has said all new customers will receive 100% renewable energy.
Its rival, EDF, failed with its L’Offre Renouvelable which was dearer than the regulated tariff (€36 more for the family, €43 dearer for the 5,000kWh couple and €17 dearer for the 2,000kWh) earning a rebuke from 60 Millions for its “dissuasive” tariff.
Cooperative group Enercoop, the only supplier to put green energy directly into the grid from its own producers, was even more expensive than EDF’s green tariff, at €206 dearer than the regulated price, but has the selling point that it is supporting – and helping develop – renewable energy producers by agreeing long-term contracts.
Enercoop sales director Jon Sofier said it started as an acte militant where people wanted to avoid nuclear. As with organic food, “some people would pay extra to encourage a new ‘green’ energy industry”.
He said it was about 15% more expensive and this was a “big brake on expansion” but added that regulated tariffs were based on cheap nuclear power where “there is a lot of subsidy going into nuclear, especially with the disposal of waste a potential cost of hundreds of billions. With renewable energy we pay the real price of electricity as our long-term contracts are dearer than those you can buy on the open market.
“We have 42,000 customers across France and we have to supply green energy to the market to meet their demands. All our producers are in France and while more than 90% comes from run-of-river hydro power schemes – less environmentally damaging than dams – a growing amount of wind power gives 5% and solar just 1%.”
“Until last September EDF had a monopoly on the right to offer subsidised prices to people with solar panels or wind turbines, now Enercoop has been given the same right and that will allow us to work with more suppliers and offer better rates.”
Like Enercoop, Lampiris wants to be able to offer the subsidised prices and last year won the price challenge set by consumer magazine Que Choisir with a tariff that was 23% cheaper than the regulated rate and was 100% green energy vie garanties sur l’origine verte.