Friday, 18 November 2011

Green Energy (or how much should we sacrifice for the sake of our values?)

The dilemma: how much should we sacrifice, or ask others to sacrifice for our values? Particularly if the others have different values than our own?

I've been struggling with a decision recently. Not a massive one, but given my current situation a fairly important one. The decision? Whether or not to sign up for green electricity, given the increased cost.

The reason I've struggled with this is that I'm currently unemployed, again, and thanks to stupid depression, that's not likely to change in the near future. The budget is tight, and I'm not the best at sticking with one at the best of times.

While I'm living on minimal income, I've been constantly wavering between going for the cheapest option to make life easier for myself, and picking the slightly more costly option that is commensurate with my values. For several weeks I've gone back and forth depending on my mood and outlook, but finally a couple days ago I settled on doing what I feel is the right thing.

Deciding to go for a green energy scheme, I signed up for Equigas from Ebico and electricity from Good Energy, a 100% renewable energy company.

Now, there were other companies, notably nPower, who also provided certified green energy schemes that would match my electricity usage with 100% renewables and cost a fifth less than Good Energy. So why Good Energy?

nPower are primarily using non-renewable sources for electricity and just topping up with renewable to match my demand.

Good Energy use 100% renewable energy sources and have smaller generators spread throughout the country in hundreds of different areas. Local generators support communities and provide jobs across the country. In addition, Good Energy's hydroelectric power comes from small watermills as opposed to damns which have a questionable environmental impact.

For me, I like the idea of supporting a company that is dedicated to developing green electricity usage and local projects and exclusively uses renewable sources. To paraphrase from their (obviously biased but still valid) literature: it's more like buying from a farmers' market than a supermarket.

As for gas, this is a tough one and still not quite resolved.

I signed up the other day for (non-profit energy provider) Ebico's Equigas. This provides gas at a low flat rate regardless of payment method or usage, which for me as someone using a prepay meter and little gas compared to the national average is very attractive, plus it has a positive social impact by providing more affordable gas. The downside is that there is no mention of the source of the gas on their website, nor of any projects to increase renewable gas production.

Enter Ecotricity. They produce a large volume of their gas from waste products and are developing technology to produce it en masse from natural algae. The downside is the cost is 1.5 times that of Ebico for the amount of gas I would use. Spread over the course of the year that's not the end of the world, and the sums involved wouldn't typically be seen as wallet-busting. However as someone who is striving for financial independence in the long run but who's values drive him to lean towards Ecotricity for it's renewable gas projects, the conflict of ideals is challenging.

My mind is still changeable though. While I am inclined to pick Ecotricity, I am waiting on Equigas to get in touch with me regarding the exact sources of their gas. That will be the clincher either way.

One day I'll be off grid and all this will be a thing of the past. But until then I am struggling to balance my responsibility to the Earth and society, with my responsibility for helping ensure that WIB and I can afford to live while we try to get stable.

Any thoughts, comments and opinions are more than welcome.


  1. You should always do what you feel is right. We have no options here for electricity, I can only go through the co-op or get off the rid. We are not ready yet for off the grid living. We have choices of propane companies, and we go through a small family ran one.

    However with money being tight, it has to be a factor in these decisions. Sometimes you indeed have to sacrifice your values to reach your final goal when it comes to fiances.

    I would never ask someone to sacrifice their own values for my benefit. well not on purpose.

  2. No options for electricity? That's mad. Is that because of your location?
    It's a tough one the finance issue. I'm hoping that since the amounts involved aren't massive, I ought to be able to save little bits as and when I get money in order to pay the bills. I think it will be possible, if difficult, in my current situation to stick with my values for energy. If things get worse, then I'll reconsider. The one positive of being on a prepay meter is that you can't spend more than you have. I'll just have to be tighter with the thermostat and heating times. And maybe buy some fingerless gloves to use the computer :p

  3. if money is tight, go with what is cheap and save the difference in a bank account (or jar) that you dedicate to generating your own green power off-grid, when you can, and if you can...

    Phelan point's out the problem..

    it's tough to try and stick to you values and especially when you are juggling a financial decision that involves services/products and your own moral compass combined with limited resources..

    it's not easy..

    if it's weighing on you, go for the cheapest and hold out until YOU have control..

    the cynic in me wonders how "green" these companies really are.. you sound earnest, i would hate for you to be disappointed at a premium price.

    sweaters are cheap!!!

  4. Hey Jambaloney, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, and thanks for the advice.
    I have a cycnical streak too, which does make me question these things. Short of actually going and inspecting everything myself, which obviously wouldn't happen, I'm just going to have faith that the companies are as nice as they seem :s. I like the idea of saving the difference, but part of me just can't get past the thought that if I want to see something happen i.e. more green electricity and gas, I have to be willing to push forward and find a way to make my contribution. However if things start to get ridiculous, I'll switch to cheaper.

    I've decided that given that I can spread the cost across the year I can probably afford to go with the greener options. And since I spend most of my time at home in my bed, I don't have to worry too much about the heating until it gets really cold.


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