So, we may only have twelve years to limit climate change. It’s scary, but there is still time. Now isn’t the time to shut down and admit defeat (although that may be tempting), but instead to get serious about effective plans of action. I’ll repeat myself until I turn blue emphasising that we need a combination of consumer choice, collective action and policy change, but today I have a real, easy to implement solution that ticks several of these boxes. Switching your energy supplier.
There are many different issues when it comes to our environment, and our individual choices do play some part in this. However, I believe that large corporations have done a great job of shifting blame and guilt onto the individual, instead of taking responsibility for the messes they have caused. We’re made to feel guilty each time we drive a car, but if you live in a city with no public transport and there are no fuel efficient cars available to you, how is that your fault? We blame people for buying bottled water, but if you live in Flint and your tap water is filled with lead (which, by the way, still hasn’t been fixed), how is that your fault?
Yes, our individual choices matter. But only when we have the agency to make them, when they are made collectively, and when they are made in a way that challenges corporate prioritising of power and greed.
It’s time to hit em where it hurts. Fossil fuels.
Ok, so maybe leaving too many lights on isn’t the most efficient for your house, but you know who has been responsible for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988? These 100 companies. Notice what every single one of them has in common: coal, oil and gas. The toxic trio of fossil fuels that really need to stay in the ground if we want this planet to last beyond 2040. Two of the main ways I can think to do that are to divest from fossil fuel industries, and to reduce the demand for them.
And today I want to talk about People’s Energy, the UK’s only crowdfunded energy company that both provide 100% renewable energy and give their customers a voice.
In my living room, with electricity & heating provided by People’s Energy
Who are People’s Energy?
People’s Energy was created by David and Karin, two people who were fed up with their energy bills funding greedy shareholders and corporate interests, instead of caring for customers or the planet. They decided to flip the traditional business model of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers and create a company that pays its profits to customers and gives them control of the business. A lot of people were fans of this idea, and they crowdsourced £500,000 to create The People’s Energy Company: an affordable, ethical, renewable and transparent supplier that pays back 75% of profits to customers and appoints them to the Advisory Board of Directors. In their first year of business they already have 16,000 customers across the UK, of which I am one.
How does it work?
People’s Energy competitively sells electricity and gas to customers. Their energy comes from the renewable sources of wind, solar, hydro and tidal. Now, this may seem impossible as the electricity that comes directly to your home comes from the National Grid, which is also supplied by coal, gas and nuclear, so People’s Energy created a little analogy to explain it:
Imagine the National Grid as a big bucket, with generators filling it up with electricity from lots of different sources and suppliers taking electricity out to distribute to their customers’ homes. What we do at People’s Energy is ensure that any electricity we use from the National Grid to supply our households is ‘topped up’ by renewable generation only. That way, we only use up what’s renewable.
Essentially they commit to putting as much renewable energy into the grid as they take out of it. Working with their trusted partner SmartestEnergy, they source energy from a community of renewable generators. People’s Energy buy certificates from Smartest Grid which help guarantee that for every kWh of energy members use, one kWh of green energy is put back into the grid. They can even track your electricity right back to the renewable generators they came from.
In terms of money, 75% of profits will be returned to consumers when the company expects to begin making profits in 2019, rising to 100% in 2025. In the shorter term consumers and colleagues are given share ownership at no extra cost to them by 2021. Because of this they have direct, democratic influence, through representation on the Board and regular polls around core decisions. People’s Energy adopt a fully transparent approach for accounting, salaries and business decisions, and even publish board minutes and salaries on their website.
Is it easy to switch?
In a word, yes.
Honestly, the process was daunting for me at first. Although I’ve lived out of home for seven years I’ve nearly always paid rent with bills included, or another housemate was in charge of the bills. Moving into my own home was the first time I’d ever had to sort it out myself, but it was actually fine!
Because I had just moved in my energy had rolled over to the same provider as the previous tenants, but all I had to do was get a quote with People’s Energy, which only took a few minutes, and then set up my account. They handled telling my supplier that I had switched, and as of the start of October I was changed over. As I had just moved in I didn’t have a current monthly amount to compare to, but People’s Energy charge the same amount per month in advance (not arrears), based on an annual consumption estimate that is divided by twelve. If my usage is lower than estimated then at the end of the month my account will have a credit balance, which I can keep in my account for a later date or have refunded directly to me.
I find this to be a really great way of working, as I have a fixed amount that I can expect to see leaving my account each month, rather than being surprised each month by a new bill amount. So far I’ve barely had the heating or many lights on (the benefits of living alone – you only need light on in one room at a time), so it’s also good to know I’m likely to have some credit that might build up to be used when winter gets colder.
Giving back to the community
Speaking of switching suppliers, People’s Energy also didn’t want to throw their money at switching sites, so instead decided to work with charity partners to give back to local and national community projects and introduce more people to their work. Their community partnerships further empower these projects by allowing them to accrue financial rewards for referring members to People’s Energy. When you sign up all you need to do is enter the code for your project or charity, and People’s Energy donate £10 per fuel.
Current partners include Harrison’s Fund, which funds research for treatments and a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in children; Teapot Trust, which fights inequality in psychological support for chronically ill children and young people, and provides professional art therapists in hospitals across the UK; and The Actors Centre, the UK’s leading organisation offering a programme of high-calibre workshops and masterclasses for the professional development of emerging and established performers.
If you have your own project that you need help funding you can contact People’s Energy to join too. There’s never a cost to their partners, and they help as best they can. Simply get in touch here.
It’s clear there are myriad benefits to switching to People’s Energy. It’s affordable, transparent, green energy provided by people that actually care about you, not just lining the pockets of their CEO. But more than that, if we can see mass switching of energy suppliers across the UK, we can change the cultural conversation.
Because People’s Energy work by putting renewable energy directly into the grid, the more people use them for their provider, the more renewable energy is being directed into the grid, and the less energy from fossil fuels. It works on a consumer level, by ensuring your energy use is green, but also at a collective level, transforming and shaping the way our national energy landscape looks. As the price of renewables has continually plummeted in recent years, this high demand will only continue to make renewable options more affordable, and fossil fuels economically unstable and untrustworthy, which also aids the divestment movement too. While I’d love to see fossil fuel companies change because of the morality of the situation, we all know that’s probably not likely, and so using financial sense, economic pressure and public opinion has to be the route we take. It pressures governments to listen, it pushes climate positive policy forward, and it tells the fossil fuel industry that they’re going to have to get behind renewables or get left behind by the public.
If all of the UK switched to green energy supplies, just imagine what that could do. Imagine the countries that could follow our lead. Imagine how culture could shift.
And yet for you, it only requires five minutes of your time.
So I truly hope today you’ll switch to People’s Energy. It’s an easy action that could create huge change, if we do it together.
And once you switch, refer a friend using this referral link. If someone switches within 60 days of your referral, you’ll earn £20 plus a custom People’s Energy Seedbom. Seedbom’s are teeny biodegradable grenades filled with organic peat-free compost and wildflower or herb seeds. They help you engage in guerrilla gardening, as you simply have to throw them onto any green urban space to plant some flowers of your own. So not only are you going renewable, you get to help the bees too!
- Learn more about the divestment movement and get involved here
- Move your pension fund out of the fossil fuel industry here
- Switch to renewable powered web hosting here
Photos by Teegan Egerton
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by People’s Energy. All views are my own and they really are my energy provider!