Greenpeace has released its 2022 Green Electricity Guide, which ranks Australian energy retailers according to their environmental credentials, and aims to cut through the “greenwashing”.
The guide, produced by Greenpeace Australia Pacific in collaboration with the Total Environment Centre, assessed 48 energy retailers based on six criteria: providing renewable energy, ending coal use by 2030, halting fossil fuel expansion, supporting new renewable energy, transparency of marketing, and pollution and environmental harm.
Australia has one of the most polluting energy sectors in the world, and lags well behind other more economically developed countries (MECDs) in its climate commitments. That’s despite being a nation bathed in wind, waves and sunshine, and a nation that has no small stake in the climate crisis given the disproportionately severe impacts it faces.
To stay below 1.5C of warming, the threshold to curb the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to cut its emissions by roughly 50% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.
Australia, on the other hand, has committed to cutting emissions by 26-28% by 2030 – Climate Action Tracker calculates that Australia’s 2030 target, if replicated the world over, would be consistent with warming of 4 degrees Celsius.
Patently, something needs to change, but many of us feel powerless to impact the climate crisis in a material way. That’s where the clean energy guide comes in.
Who were the highest and lowest scorers?
Leading the pack in greener energy were Enova Energy and Diamond Energy, both of which scored 100% across all measures and provide solely renewable energy to their customers. Other high scorers included Momentum Energy, Aurora Energy, Indigo Power, Energy Locals, Nectr Energy, CoPower, and Amber Electric.
At the bottom of the rankings were some familiar names, including AGL, Australia’s largest energy retailer. According to the report, AGL is the country’s biggest polluter, accounting for about 8% of our greenhouse gas emissions; 83% of the company’s energy generation comes from coal. In fact, the company scored 0% on all criteria except support for renewable energy.
Other low scorers included Origin Energy, Energy Australia, Powerdirect, and ActewAGL.
Cutting through the greenwashing
“The Green Electricity Guide aims to cut through greenwashing from this industry because, unfortunately, it’s rife,” says Glenn Walker, Greenpeace senior campaigner who led the development of the guide.
Walker says some major providers “market themselves very heavily as renewable energy heroes”, whilst being major polluters.
“So it’s quite hard for Australians to see through the greenwashing, because there’s so many companies available, and they all do a good job with their marketing,” he says.
Walker says more stringent regulation could help.
“We believe there needs to be stronger standards for marketing, and stronger regulations on how companies are able to report how much renewable electricity they’re generating or contributing to the grid.”
Will switching my energy provider actually change anything?
“It’s important that individuals band together as a broader community to change Australia’s electricity system,” says Walker. “If we have tens of thousands of people switching electricity providers, that sends a really strong signal to the big polluters that they have to change.”
Walker says there is cause for hope.
“Encouragingly, there is a race to the top, to be Australia’s greenest electricity provider.
“We have heard from three providers that by the end of this year they’ll be on 100% renewable electricity, so this means that by the time we come to the next guide, it’s going to be even more competitive for those top rankings.
“This is a signal to companies like AGL, Origin and Energy Australia that the competition is heating up.”
Amalyah Hart has a BA (Hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Oxford and an MA in Journalism from the University of Melbourne.
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