Light up my life

Dear Subcomandauntie, Having campaigned against the war for Iraq's oil, I am increasingly concerned about oil's effect on climate change. I really want to put my own house in order by cutting back my use of oil, starting with changing my electricity supplier to a 'green' one. But I don't really see the point as all suppliers are legally obliged to have a quota of renewable energy, anyway. Will switching merely take the heat off my conscience? Olive Oil

February 1, 2005 · 2 min read

Dear Olive,

I don’t need any cans of spinach to shine some low-energy light on your dilemma. You’re spot on: the way the electricity market currently works makes it hard to judge whether consumer demand makes any difference at all. Each unit of renewable energy generated is awarded a certificate which can be sold from company A to company B. Company B can then use the certificate to count towards its legal obligation of supplying a certain quota of renewable electricity. So instead of two units of renewable energy existing, there is only one that is accounted for twice. In other words, fossil fuel-burning companies can simply buy certificates to cover their renewables obligations.

The kind of society-wide shift to a new power base favoured by Red Pepper is more likely to result from supporting electricity suppliers that source renewable energy and hang on to the certificates. This would limit the circulation of certificates, and encourage development in the renewables market. See Friends of the Earth\’s guide to green electricity tariffs for more details.

But consumer demand for renewable electricity sources must also increase massively if it is to influence the development of the green electricity market in any useful way. Your change of electricity supplier may indeed fizzle and fade as an act on its own, but if all your mates who bang on about wars over oil similarly stopped guzzling the stuff, you might spark something interesting.


Greenwash

Alethea Warrington describes how the fossil fuels industry hopes to change its image but not its practice

Build small, think big

Phillip O’Sullivan looks at the role of community energy groups in disrupting the energy status quo

All eyes on Wet’suwet’en

Suzanne Dhaliwal, in collaboration with Indigenous Climate Action, explains how the struggle to end Canada’s colonial violence is continuing in the face of fossil fuel extractivism


Deforestation on the Tasman coast

Conservation without colonialism

Jennifer Johnson explores the structural underpinnings – and limitations – of carbon offsetting and related approaches to the climate crisis

Swords into ploughshares; planes into ventilator parts

The speedy switch in from producing airplane wings to ventilator parts at a north Wales factory holds out an example for a transition to a low-carbon economy, writes Hilary Wainwright

XR: the case for deliberative democracy

Climate Assembly UK begins this weekend. It's a good start, says Alex Bradbury, but does not meet XR's third demand for a Government-commissioned Citizens’ Assembly

Only fearless, independent journalism
can hold power to account

Your support keeps Red Pepper alive