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Green Electricity

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cleaner cars, cleaner fuels

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         Green electricity is electricity generated from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, solar or biomass.

         It powers a growing number of homes and businesses in the UK.

         Renewably generated electricity, along with electricity from other sources, is pooled into the national grid which then supplies everybody via local electricity networks.

         Signing up to a green tariff does not mean that the electricity you use at home will be green BUT it does mean that somewhere on the grid, your consumption is being matched by an equivalent supply of green electricity.



         No fossil fuels will have been burned to produce your power, so you have not added to the pollution that is contributing to climate change.

         The production of your electricity has not generated any hazardous nuclear waste that has to be stored.

         Some green electricity companies will invest a proportion of your money in community renewable energy projects or other projects to benefit the environment.

         The switch is hassle free, you won’t need new cables or meters.

         It doesn’t necessarily cost more.  Some providers guarantee to match the standard tariff of your local energy supplier. 

         If you use green electricity to power your business premises you will be exempt from paying the Climate Change Levy (CCL).



         Every unit of green electricity generated comes with a certificate of proof that it is green (Renewable Obligation Certificate or ROC).  Companies use the proof to demonstrate to the Government they have met their legal obligation.

         Some companies keep a proportion of the certificates for the extra green electricity they have supplied to you. Others sell the certificates to other electricity providers who can then use them to meet their legal obligations without actually having generated any green electricity themselves.

         Keeping the certificates is the best option for the future for green electricity. This is because there are a limited number of them and by keeping hold of them companies are  increasing demand which in turn encourages new development.  As importantly, keeping the certificates means that their price goes up  thus discouraging their trade between energy providers.



         A number of suppliers provide green electricity tariffs but it is worth noting that some suppliers could be “greener” than others.   Friends of the Earth recommend a small number of suppliers out of the total market because these suppliers;

         only sell green electricity, or;

         produce green electricity in a large percentage of power stations they own, or;

         buy or generate one unit of green electricity for every unit a person buys, and;

         hold onto at least some of the proof (ROCs) that they have done so


Friends of the Earth do not recommend suppliers who do not meet all of the above criteria nor do they recommend power companies who operate fossil fuel based power stations or “Carbon Dinosaurs” as they are called by FOE.


The  tables on the next page outline the various green electricity products and providers in the market place.  It also shows which providers are recommended by Friends of the Earth.

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Cleaner cars, cleaner fuels


Driving a car is the second most ecologically damaging thing that most of us do (air travel is the worst). Advances in vehicle design and fuel quality now mean, though, that cars are being made cleaner and more efficient. The best contribution you can make to cutting pollution is, of course, to cut your number of car journeys but new advances mean that the trips you do make by car can be less polluting than before.


One option is to convert your car to run on Liquefied Petroleum Gas. LPG is very cheap due to the significantly lower fuel duty imposed by the Government. A litre of LPG currently costs about half the price of petrol or diesel on the forecourts.

Emissions of carbon monoxide are much lower than for petrol and of carbon dioxide slightly lower (about 12% less than petrol). LPG causes less wear and tear to the engine and exhaust of the car. Disadvantages, though, include cold start problems and valve-seat wear.

There are now over 650 LPG refuelling sites around Britain (and the number is expected to double within two or three years) including ones in Halifax, Keighley, Huddersfield, Burnley and Bradford, but not, as yet, Hebden Bridge. A list of sites is available at the ATC or on the Energy Savings Trust Powershift website (see below).

Most types of vehicle can be converted to run on LPG but converting a smaller car may mean losing most of your boot space to the LPG tank. The typical cost of converting a petrol car to run on LPG is around 1000 to 1,500. If looking to buy second hand, you may be able to pick up a ready converted ex-fleet car.


Another option would be to invest in an electric vehicle. Britain has over 37,000. They are highly efficient - it can cost as little as 1p per mile compared with around 10p for a typical petrol car. They are extremely quiet and produce zero tailpipe emissions.

The disadvantages are the weight and capacity of the battery (their range is only about 40 to 70 miles) and the fact that production of the electricity produces its own pollution (unless it is generated from renewable sources). Electric vehicles can be recharged from any 13 amp socket in around seven hours. However, many companies appear to be dis-investing from electric vehicle production for more investment in hybrid and fuel cell technology.


Hybrid vehicles use a combination of conventional fuel (petrol/diesel) with electricity to power the engine. The electric fuel system is used at lower speeds and for stop-start driving in urban areas. Conventional fuel is used either to drive the vehicle directly outside urban areas, or to travel at higher speeds, or to recharge the batteries. Switching fuels in this way enables reduced emissions. These vehicles do not require external recharging and claim to be capable of up to 80 miles on a gallon of petrol.


In the longer term, fuel cells offer the prospect of emission-free vehicles. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that produces electricity by mixing hydrogen with oxygen taken straight from the air. The only emission from the exhaust is water vapour. The manufacture of the hydrogen could however result in greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel cell vehicles are not currently commercially available, but DaimlerChrysler and other major car manufacturers, including Honda and Toyota, have pledged to have fuel cell vehicles available by 2004.

All new cars will soon be clearly labelled to show their carbon dioxide emissions and fuel efficiency.

At the end of the day, though, the best thing you can do is to reduce your car use. More information is available from the ATC.


Thanks to Friends of the Earth (Freephone 0808 800 1111), the Environmental Transport Association (01924 415334) and the Energy Savings Trust (020 7222 0101) for the information in this article. The Energy Savings Trust Power-shift Programme web-site is very useful:



The Toyota Prius is the world’s first petrol/electric family saloon. It costs 16,495 - but the first 200 customers can get a 1000 grant from the Energy Savings Trust Powershift programme.


It has an official fuel consumption of 55 – 61 miles per gallon. Since its launch in Japan in 1997, more than 43,000 Prius models have been sold around the world. The Prius is now on sale in Britain. Honda has also just launched a hybrid car – the two-seater Insight.   


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Along with the 11 million turkeys that will never see the light of day again (that’s if they were lucky enough to see it in the first place!) the government’s "are you doing your bit?" campaign predicts that this Christmas will yet again see the creation of a monstrous mountain of festive "waste". It will consist of at least 1 billion Christmas cards, over 6 million Christmas trees, 4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil, 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging, and enough wrapping paper to cover Guernsey, with a bit to spare!

Fortunately there are several ways to minimise the damage our celebrations might cause the environment. Along with those lovely people at Hebden Bridge Post Office, Kerbside will be collecting and recycling all Christmas cards that are not being saved for making into next year’s gift tags. Buying recycled cards and gift-wrap, or even making your own, will also reduce the environmental impact of our seasonal excesses. If you can’t find a properly rooted Christmas tree locally you should be able to find out where your nearest stockist of replantable trees is by contacting the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (0113 213 0300).

A commitment to local organic produce would also help soften the blow caused by the mass transportation of 85,000 tonnes of sprouts around the country. Organic sources should also be sought to help offset the effect of our consumption of 60,000 tonnes of chocolate, and 200 million litres of soft drinks, along with the 23 pints of Christmas beer, 7 units of spirit and three bottles of wine that the average adult supposedly enjoys!

When it comes to presents perhaps we could all make an effort to shop locally for gifts that are durable, not over packaged, energy efficient, made from recycled materials, and are recyclable themselves. Toys that wind up or use rechargeable batteries help to reduce our environmental impact.
 Over 33 million disposable batteries were purchased during the festive season in Britain last year and 98% of them will now be lying in landfill sites polluting our environment! (Battery chargers are now available for even supposedly non-rechargeable batteries…what a great idea for a present!)
Finally, perhaps everyone could consider donating some of the 12_ billion that is spent on presents, or the 200 million spent on new tinsel and baubles to a worthy cause…



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