How green is our energy? – new ISF/TEC report

TEC wants greater transparency on fuel mix and carbon intensity in the energy retail sector

A study commissioned by the Total Environment Centre highlights shortcomings in publicly available information on fuel mix and carbon intensity of the electricity sold by particular retailers. The ground breaking new report is a major step towards answering consumers’ increasingly urgent need to know – How clean is my power? – said TEC.

The Electricity Retailer Disclosure Study was commissioned by the Total Environment Centre and prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS.

“We commissioned it in response to escalating enquiries from the general public about how to switch from ‘dirty’ or unsuitable, retailers,” said TEC Executive Director Jeff Angel. “Clearly they need advice as to which companies are greener alternatives and various NGOs have begun work on this.”

Mr Angel said that a critical part of the move to a clean energy economy, relates to how and where the retailers get their electricity from, about which there is very little available in the public domain. There’s GreenPower as an offset product but this accounts for only about 2 per cent of national electricity sales.” Mr Angel suggested.

The ISF report investigated three areas:

  • Fuel mix: in the absence of publically available information on the fuel mix of electricity sold, this report examines ownership of generation assets, including the proportion of capacity from renewable energy sources, as a step towards reporting the fuel mix of electricity offered to customers. Unfortunately current data does not allow the fuel mix and carbon intensity of electricity offered to consumers to be calculated.
  • Commitment to renewable energy: commitment to renewable energy development in Australia (specifically support for decentralised renewable energy generation, the carbon price and mandatory Renewable Energy Target, and level of GreenPower sales)
  • Commitment to sustainability: publishing of a GRI-compliant sustainability report, presence of a corporate Environmental Policy, and an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System and participation in sustainability benchmarking systems.

“The report highlights the need for more publicly available information in an easy to understand form,” said TEC energy campaigner Mark Byrne. “The data in the report had to be dredged from multiple sources.”

“We call on governments and regulators to ensure that retailers publish data every year on the fuel mix and emissions intensity of their sales volume,” Mr Byrne said. “This could take time, so we’ll be working with other environment and consumer groups to take the ISF research to the next stage.”

“This is likely to involve a survey and ranking of retailers similar to the successful Green Electricity Watch, which TEC ran from 2003-2007,” Mr Byrne said.

“Green Electricity Watch resulted in significant improvements in the GreenPower products retailers were offering to the public. We anticipate a similar useful service for consumers when NGOs complete their work.”