Going green can be easy even in a nuclear nation

In France, where an estimated 75% of electricity is generated from nuclear power, it is still possible for environmentally-conscious consumers to buy energy from green, renewable sources.

One supplier is leading the way. Enercoop describes itself as the only co-operative 100% renewable energy supplier in France. It was founded in 2005 by a group of supporters of environmental protection, including Greenpeace, the French co-operative bank La Nef and Friends of the Earth.

Jon Sofier, its Paris-based commercial services manager, said: “EDF was the the only electricity supplier in France for many years. When the market became open to other suppliers, a number of players in the social economy decided to create an electricity supplier in their own image.

“They created Enercoop, which is a non-profit-making cooperative – and we supply 100% renewable energy.”

It aims to create regional cooperatives around France – there are 10 at present – where local members can be in charge of all parts of the energy process from production to consumption and where each customer can be equally responsible for the energy they consume.

While traditional suppliers – such as EDF or Engie (formerly GDF-Suez) – offer ‘green’ tariffs, consumer watchdog UFC-Que Choisir found in a study that some of the energy supplied comes from nuclear or so-called unidentifiable ‘grey’ sources.

“It is legal, but misleading,” UFC-Que Choisir said.

In December, the group also questioned EDF’s certified renewable energy claims which were launched at the time of the COP21 environmental summit.

UFC-Que Choisir said 10% of so-called ‘certified green energy’ produced every year by the electricity supplier already came from hydroelectric power stations that had been operating for years – and added that, as the cost of building the power stations had been paid off for many years, the energy was overpriced.

When founded, Enercoop supplied only businesses but moved into the private market when the energy market was liberalised.

Mr Sofier said this had been a tremendous success. “We are growing very quickly, with close to 27,000 clients.

“At the moment, 1,500 people are joining the cooperative each month and we forecast around 150,000 clients by 2020.”

The company works with businesses and individuals that supply solar, hydro, wind or biomass-produced power.

Relating to the confusion over the EDF ‘renewable’ claims, it said it is impossible to guarantee that the energy coming into customers’ homes is 100% green but it does promise that its clients’ bills will be used to pay only renewable energy suppliers.

Enercoop’s electricity prices are currently about 15% higher than traditional energy suppliers, but the gap is narrowing – it has fallen about 20% since Enercoop entered the market.

Mr Sofier said: “We have never changed our prices and the others, especially EDF, are catching us up. We expect to be approximately the same in the near future.”

For anyone interested in switching to Enercoop, Mr Sofier said the process is simple and can be done online at www.enercoop.fr and takes about about five minutes.

He added: “Many people who work at Enercoop have good English. We even have one or two native English speakers working in Paris.”