BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 14 July '17

The ‘new breed of energy supplier’ found new ways to connect on World Environment Day

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.

Click here to find out why Octopus Energy’s Super Green Tariff is a MyGreenPod.com Hero

Octopus Energy
Octopus Group’s renewable energy sites

ARSENAL FC, OCTOPUS AND THE UN

The push to re-connect with Nature for World Environment Day provided an opportunity for the Octopus Energy team to discuss a core belief: that renewable energy isn’t a luxury for the rich, but a critical element of the shift to a more sustainable future. Greg is adamant that every energy supplier can find a successful commercial model that allows organic investment in green power, and that every consumer has the opportunity to make their own difference.

To drive the message home, on the eve of World Environment Day every single one of Octopus Energy’s customers received a personal impact statement. Each email detailed exactly how much CO2 the individual had saved by taking their energy from Octopus, which of the Octopus sites had contributed most to their personal renewable energy supply and, for customers on the Super Green tariff, exactly where the gas carbon off setting had been done.

Octopus also promised that for everyone who signed up to Octopus Energy on World Environment Day, a native broadleaf tree would be planted in the UK in their name. To kick the initiative off, a tree was planted outside the Emirates Stadium, which is entirely powered by renewable sources, in an event supported by Arsenal FC, Octopus Energy and the UN – all underwritten by World Environment Day’s connecting with Nature theme.

The response was incredible; thousands of consumers and customers contacted Octopus and Arsenal by phone, email, Twitter and Facebook. They shared positive feelings about how it felt to know they’d made a small but significant contribution to environmental causes simply by choosing a particular energy supplier.

Now Greg’s looking forward to the next step; ‘In July we’ll hit 100,000 customers, an amazing number given we only launched just over a year ago’, he tells us. ‘As a result, we’re looking at doubling the number of solar and anaerobic sites we contract to meet the demand. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves this autumn and planting a handful of the thousands of trees we’re hoping to put into schools and communities across the UK.’

One tree and one customer at a time, Octopus Energy is showing consumers – and other energy companies – that renewables are here to stay.

Click here for more from Octopus Energy, including tariffs and prices.