Monday, 23 May 2011

Power to the People

Silly me.  I forgot one of the big things we can all do to help stop the UK going nuclear: we can choose nuclear-free electricity for our homes.  This is something that I urgently need to do myself.

It pains me to admit that my boyfriend and I are currently buying our electricity from EDF.  We inherited them at our previous flat, and didn't switch because we spent the whole time there thinking we were just about to move (but ended up being there for over a year).  I wish we had switched, because then the next tenants would have inherited a different (hopefully more eco-friendly) supplier from us - I bet they haven't bothered to switch either.  And for some reason (ease, amid the chaos of moving) we're still using EDF here in the new flat.  Not for much longer, I promise.

EDF stands for Electricit√© De France, and it's owned by the French government.  According to Wikipedia, EDF is the world's biggest utility company.  It's also primarily a nuclear power company.  Look at this excellent table that tells you how much renewable generation each electricity supplier uses.  Note that nuclear is not classed as renewable.  If you click on the "view fuel mix" link for any company, you can see exactly what sorts of generation they use.  EDF is 64.5% nuclear.  Yikes.

Things are complicated slightly by the fact that some of the "green" suppliers use nuclear energy (were they thinking green as in radioactive glow green?).  So Ecotricity actually uses more nuclear generation than Npower.  But then it gets even more complicated because Npower (as part of RWE) is one of the companies planning to build some of the government's new nuclear facilities - and of course Ecotricity uses far more renewable sources than Npower.  Other companies who hope to get in on the nasty new nuclear act, according to this Wikipedia entry which might be a bit out of date, are EDF (of course) and E.ON.

While you're reducing your nuclear power usage, you might as well reduce your fossil fuel usage too.  Good Energy is the only 100% renewable electricity supplier in the UK at the moment.

Of course, we need to cut down on our electricity usage all together - and gas, for that matter, if you have gas supplied to your home (I don't).  There are lots of ways to do that.

I think micro-generation of electricity might be the way forward.  Imagine if we made all our electricity very close to its point of use: not only could we get rid of huge power stations, but we could also pull down the miles upon miles of ugly pylons that march across our countryside.  If you own your home, you could think about putting a mini-turbine or some solar panels on the roof.  (Apparently the free solar panel offers that you might have seen are not necessarily a good deal, though.)

Oh yes, I forgot something else: once you've switched, make sure you let both your old energy supplier and your new one know why you've switched.  I'm sure they think we all care only about prices, so you must tell them that you don't believe nuclear power is the answer.