Image credit: Ecotricity
UK residents have long been able to choose green electricity for their homes. But what about the millions of homes that heat and cook with natural gas? With half of the country's natural gas supplies coming from foreign sources like Russia, clean, domestic supply of gas should be a top priority for anyone interested in energy independence. Now UK households can indeed purchase clean, green gas for their homes, and drive up the supply of biogas in the process. And it's all thanks to Ecotricity - the folks who brought us stunning urban wind turbines, and whose CEO Dale Vince became one of the country's richest men building renewables. Here's how it's going to work. I already posted a few weeks ago that Ecotricity was looking to sell gas, providing home owners with a 'one-stop-shop' for both electricity and natural gas. But I read the situation wrong. At the time, I assumed the company would take the money from gas and build more turbines. It turns out they have a more holistic plan than that.
By purchasing biogas from food waste and other materials, the company is for the first time offering UK households the opportunity to buy renewable biogas for their homes. The fuel mix will currently be a combination of conventional fossil fuel-based gas, and a small amount of biogas, but just as with their unconventional model for building renewable electricity capacity, Ecotricity argue that it is not the amount of green energy that each individual buys that matters, but the amount of money that is spent on building new capacity. (After all, you can buy 100% green energy, but if no new turbines or biogas facilities are built, you are simply buying energy that would have powered another home - greening your theoretical footprint but doing little for the bigger picture.)
As a not-for-profit company, Ecotricity says it has invested an average of £450 per customer per year in new sources of green electricity, a figure that it claims is ten times that of its nearest competitor. It's now planning to apply that model to natural gas.
And for those who point out that food waste and methane from animals is not without its own problems or footprint, Ecotricity is also planning on creating gas from emerging next-generation technologies such as algae. Watch this space!