This article appears in the summer issue of MyGreenPod.com Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 14 July 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online.
World Environment Day (05 June) is the United Nations’ main way of inspiring positive action that encourages people to connect with their environment.
This year’s theme was about connecting to Nature and getting outdoors to appreciate and share the beauty of the planet. A social media campaign asked people to tweet a photo of their favourite place in Nature, and suggested picking up litter, planting a tree or checking out the local insect life during their visit.
For Greg Jackson, founder of renewable energy supplier Octopus Energy, World Environment Day provided an opportunity to talk to customers about something close to his heart: the impact on the environment of traditional versus sustainable energy.
‘The energy market in this country is broken’, Greg said. ‘Consumers need and deserve fair, transparent pricing, services designed around them and supply based on renewable sources that will keep us lit and warm long after fossil fuels have run out.’
A GLOBAL MOVEMENT
Greg wrote his business plan over five years ago, but getting the right financial backing is fundamental to building a sustainable business – especially in energy. Having found that backing in Octopus Group, a UK-based investment firm which also happens to be the UK’s largest investor in solar generation, he set about building a business with renewables at its core.
It was decided that Octopus Energy would offer two tariffs marketed as ‘green’ – one with 100% renewable electricity and one with 100% of the gas carbon offset as well – but it was critical for Greg that every Octopus Energy customer, irrespective of which tariff they were on, would form part of the global shift to renewables.
Greg made a pledge that every single Octopus customer would have at least 50% of their electricity matched in the grid by renewably generated power. It was a bold commitment for a new energy supplier – particularly considering standard ‘green’ energy tariffs are often based on the supplier buying Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin certificates (REGOs). These are sold on the open market by renewable energy generators and bought by suppliers (with no direct involvement in the energy production) to satisfy their ‘green’ tariff requirements. Octopus Group’s investment in renewables sites has allowed Octopus Energy to fulfil its promise organically through a more direct relationship.
‘We wanted total skin in the game’, Greg says. ‘Even though working directly with sites can often mean a less reliable supply and be more costly for us as a business than simply buying REGOs on the open market, I was determined that we would put our money where our mouth was and be a truly renewable business.’
After getting eight contracts in place to formalise the complex process of working directly with solar sites, Octopus Energy found a new challenge: solar works better during the day and in summer. The supplier had to add six anaerobic digestion plants to the mix to ensure it could supply the grid with renewables all hours of the day, all months of the year.