Renewable Energy, Sustainable Energy, Green Energy: What Do They Mean?
At Yorkshire Energy, we’re driven by a desire to make a difference. That’s one of the main reasons we’ve supplied 100% green electricity from day one. We don’t just keep an eye on our environmental impact to look good – we know we’re in a position to make a difference. By supplying 100% green electricity and helping people and business achieve their own sustainability goals, we’re doing what we can to limit the effects of climate change.
What is Renewable Energy?
Put simply, renewable energy is energy collected from resources like hydro, sunlight or wind. For them to be renewable, these resources need to be naturally replenished; in other words, they can’t be exhausted. That’s why fossil fuels like coal and oil aren’t classified as renewable – they’re finite resources that won’t last forever.
Solar power is growing in popularity year after year
The terms ‘green energy’ and ‘sustainable energy’ are often confused and can be used to refer to the exact same processes. Here are some of the most common energy sources that can be considered ‘renewable’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’:
As you’d naturally expect from the word ‘solar’, this type of energy comes from sunlight. It’s one of the most common forms of renewable energy and typically uses photovoltaic cells to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity.
Generated using land or sea turbines, the movement of air spins the blades, which turn a generator that produces electricity. The UK’s investments in offshore wind power have resulted in a rapid decrease of the use of coal as an energy source between 2012 and 2017, as well as a drop in the use of natural gas as an energy source in 2017.
Biomass is a renewable source of energy derived from plants and animals, usually from organic matter such as wood, crop waste or manure. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy is released as heat. Biomass can be burned directly or converted to liquid biofuels or biogas that can then be burned as fuels.
Hydropower, or water power, is taken from the energy of falling or running water. It’s been used to generate electricity since the 19th century. The most common type of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam on a river to store water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity.
Biofuels are made from plants grown today. They are produced through natural processes, such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion, rather than a fuel produced by underground geological processes such as those involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum.
In simple terms, geothermal energy is heat from underground. It’s considered to be a sustainable source of energy because the heat extraction is very small compared to the planet’s overall heat content. Geothermal power is collected by special power stations – heat from deep within the Earth is used to heat water. The liquid is then used to turn a turbine of a generator, thereby producing electricity, before being cooled and returned to the heat source.
What are the advantages of renewable energy?
The main advantage of renewable energy is that – by its very definition – it’s sustainable. Each type uses natural resources that can be replenished as we move forwards. Other benefits include little to no waste or carbon footprint, economic improvements and less overall maintenance.
It’s important to remember that renewable energy is more a collection of technologies than a singular fuel source. The biggest disadvantage to some renewable energy sources is the associated cost – there are communities who simply can’t afford to get it up and running in place of coal-fired power.
Working towards creating greener communities
Which sources of renewable energy do Yorkshire Energy use?
We promise that for each unit of electricity our customers use, we buy the same amount of electricity from a guaranteed renewable source. This process is certified by Ofgem (the energy market regulator) using Renewable Electricity Guarantees of Origin (REGOs). We buy our REGOs from a range of approved sources – including solar, wind and hydroelectric producers. This means our customers can rest assured they’re supporting green energy.
How do I know the electricity from Yorkshire Energy is green?
In an ideal world, we’d simply buy green electricity directly from a solar farm and send it straight to your house. But electricity needs to be transported via the National Grid, which is structured much like the veins and arteries of the human body. In the same way there’s only one flow of blood around our bodies, there’s not a seperate transport system for green electricity.
Electricity gets mixed up in the grid regardless of its source, so it’s never going to be completely clear where each individual person’s electricity has come from. The net result is the same though – whilst the electricity our customers use may not always be directly from a renewable source (because it all gets mixed up in the grid), somebody else who hasn’t chosen green electricity will consume your green electricity to balance it out.
What about gas, can that be green?
We’re proud to call ourselves a green energy supplier. However, at the moment we only supply 100% green electricity, as our gas is currently non-renewable. Green gas does exist – it can be produced through anaerobic digestion. This is the process of using microorganisms to break down organic matter (plants and animal waste), creating gas in the process. In a similar way to biomass energy, anaerobic digestion is considered green because the plants absorb CO2 when they grow.
At Yorkshire Energy we think green gas is a fantastic idea. But – as a technology still in its infancy – it’s currently very expensive when compared to natural gas. At present, we think we’re having a greater overall positive impact by making green electricity and natural gas available to people at a competitive price, all the while waiting for the cost of green gas to fall. For us, it’s a balance – we’re keeping one eye on the future, and one eye on our customers bills.
Is green energy more expensive?
The graph below shows our dual fuel (gas and electricity) prices relative to other suppliers, showing that green electricity doesn’t necessarily have to be any more expensive. Yorkshire Energy are shown in orange, other suppliers of green electricity are in green and blue shows non-renewable electricity suppliers.
Personal projection based on Ofgem average annual consumption, for a Leeds postcode on 04/10/18.
We aim to implement green gas in the future once it’s price competitive enough to be included in our fair-for-all tariffs. For now, we’ll continue to supply 100% green electricity. Find out more about our commitment to renewable energy in our support section. And for one of the greenest tariffs around, get a quote today!