It’s an interesting date and I’m a fan of it. Partly I suppose because I’m ‘anti superstitious’.
And partly because it’s the date of two important birthdays; of a son and a windmill.
Friday the 13th of December 1996 – is a day I remember well, the day we installed our very first windmill after a five-year planning battle. The year Ecotricity got going.
They don’t come often, but there’s another Friday the 13th December coming this year, 17 years later – and that first windmill is still going strong.
As is Ecotricity.
Our mission remains the same: to turn our customers’ Bills into Mills and change where Britain’s energy comes from.
And this year we made big strides in that direction, with planning permission to build one of the biggest wind parks in England. It’s big enough to almost double our current fleet of windmills – matching the last 17 years’ work in one go. And it’ll make a significant contribution to Britain’s energy independence, powering almost 40,000 homes for the next 25 years.
That’s Bills into Mills at its best yet.
There are two other big changes this year.
The first already happened, at the start of August. We blended our two electricity tariffs into one. One was 100% green at a small extra cost the other was about 60% green (and rising as we built) price matched to the Big Six.
We now have one, 100% Green tariff, price matched to the Big Six price for brown.
It’s a major departure for us, from our New Energy – ‘building is more important than the actual % in your tariff’ – approach. We still have that absolute focus on building new green energy – our Bills into Mills approach remains. But while we continue to build, we now supply 100% green to our customers – and instead of replacing brown energy (in the mix) with the green we build, we simply replace other people’s green energy with our own as we build.
Part of the reason we’ve done this is that we can – there is more green energy available in the wholesale market than before. The reason for that is perhaps not so good. The Big Six have dropped Green Electricity tariffs, apparently in response to OFGEM’s Retail Market Reform (RMR). Only British Gas still offers a green tariff to new customers, the other five do not.
The part of RMR that appears to have caused this, is the rule that suppliers can only have four tariffs in the near future. The Big Six are facing a severe restriction in the number of tariffs they can have – from dozens to just four – and appear to have decided that it makes no business sense to use one of those four as a green tariff. From the customer numbers they have had (on a Green tariff) – you can easily see the logic in that decision.
It’s perhaps classic OFGEM to be ‘keen’ on green tariffs on the one hand, but to (inadvertently) kill so many off on the other hand – with new rules designed to make things simpler for consumers.
We now have just one tariff. And it’s 100% Green. It’s a very good evolution and simplification – even though we only had two tariffs before.
The second big change kicks in on October 1st.
Since we began we’ve had a Price Promise – to match the Big Six price for brown in each region of Britain. We call it ‘Green for the price of Brown’.
And since most people were and are still with their regional Big Six on a standard tariff – it meant most people could go green at no extra cost.
This year we reached a bit of a watershed with our build programme, we now make nearly 40% of our own electricity and have significantly more coming as mentioned above. This degree of energy independence is giving us a degree of price independence.
And so our new Price Promise – is to be less expensive than the Big Six standard tariff in each region.
It’s only by a few pounds a year to begin with, but this is a really significant step in our evolution as a green energy company. In the future we will move increasingly further away from the big brown price – widening the gap as we achieve more energy independence.
So this is a big year for us – the birthday (day/date not just the year) of our first windmill, the doubling of our capacity in sight, the move to a single 100% green tariff, and energy independence at long last enabling some price independence (possibly the most exciting part for me) – Green energy for less than the price of Brown has arrived.
The funny thing is, all of this is happening against a background which is possibly as difficult for renewable energy as it has ever been.
On one side you have the coalition government repeatedly changing the planning rules (in an adverse way) for onshore wind, repeatedly cutting the levels of support through both the Renewables Obligation (RO) and Feed in tariff schemes, replacing the RO shortly with something not designed for renewables as part of an Energy Market Review (EMR – not to be confused with RMR), and sidestepping the issue of having hardwired energy and carbon targets in the Energy Bill.
On the flipside of that, the same coalition government are pushing hard for Fracking, changing the planning rules (in favour) of that – and making it clear they favour new gas and nuclear power stations to achieve a ‘low carbon future’ for Britain. EMR itself is all about enabling a new generation of Nuclear projects to be built in Britain, at a cost yet to be disclosed (but which will dwarf renewable energy support).
Blue and Yellow are supposed to make Green. Not on energy policy it seems, despite the best efforts of the Lib Dems (and some Tories) I don’t doubt.
We’ll carry on undeterred by all of this, of course… 🙂