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How to be greener than 'Green Gas'

Green Gas plans are awesome and make the emissions from your gas carbon-neutral. But did you know there’s more you can do to help kick carbon from our energy system?

Before we crack on, it’s helpful if you know a few key things about how the UK’s energy system works, so you can read up on the National Grid here. Or, if you’re already a National Grid know-it-all, let’s dive straight in!

To understand the whole story, we need to look at what’s actually in your green gas plan. Enter stage left, biomethane – also known as green gas. Biomethane is far better for the planet than normal carbon-emitting gas, confusingly named ‘natural gas’. But it’s expensive, which means that a 100% biomethane plan would cost most people more than they’d be prepared to pay. That’s why most energy suppliers, like us, offer you Green Gas with a mix of biomethane and natural gas (ours is 15% biomethane, one of the highest on the market1). Then to make it carbon-neutral, we offset the emissions from the natural gas.

Offsetting isn’t a long-term solution

There are some emissions that are hard to get rid of entirely with the technology we currently have, and that’s where offsetting can come in handy. But we should look at them as a last resort, rather than a get-out-of-jail-free card. That’s because they don’t reduce emissions - just shift the reductions we can’t make ourselves to somewhere in the world that can make a reduction on our behalf. Because of this, the world’s most widely used way of measuring carbon emissions - the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, doesn’t count offsets as a way to reduce your footprint. 

So, ultimately, when it comes to hitting science-based targets to help the world stay within 1.5 degrees of global warming, offsetting doesn’t count as a reduction. 

Think of it like recycling. Offsetting is a useful way to balance out your impact. But it’s best not to create those emissions in the first place. 

So, how can we meet our science-based targets? 

The simplest, most sure-fire way of cutting down the carbon footprint of our gas in-line with the GHG protocol is to reduce our gas use. That might sound like an easier-said-than-done task, but there are lots of small steps you can take to cut back.

Like turning down the thermostat by just one degree, for instance. Because if everyone in the UK did this, we’d stop over 8 million tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere per year2

The next idea is a bit harder to achieve, but the real key to unlocking a huge reduction in the amount of gas we’re using is by switching our homes to electric heating. Right now, 80% of UK homes have gas central heating. It’s ‘central’ to the way we live our lives (pardon the pun) and moving away from this calls for massive infrastructural change, which is now starting to happen. For example, the government has banned gas heating in new homes built from 2025, and trials have started to test hydrogen as a fuel that’s injected into the National Grid. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a step. 

In the meantime, the government has recently picked us to launch a brand new trial that pioneers zero carbon heating, the Zero Carbon Heating Trial. The project should change the way we heat our homes forever, and it’s a huge step towards zero carbon homes of the future. Find out more here

Want personalised help to cut back your gas use? 

We recently launched a new programme called OVO Beyond - giving you the power to fight the climate crisis by fighting energy waste. It brings you 100% carbon-neutral energy3, plus personalised actions that help you waste less of it. So you can do even more to help your home – and the whole country – get closer to zero carbon.

 

We’ve chatted a lot here about why cutting down your gas use is really important, but the same is true of electricity. To get the full (and slightly different) story on that, head here.

 

1OVO Energy's Green Gas is made up of 15% sustainable biomethane, with the remaining 85% offset to make your gas carbon-neutral. As of 13th May 2020, the proportion of biogas offered vs the amount offset was higher than all other providers who share details of their green gas offering, except Green Energy UK - and that's something we're pretty proud of. The green gas we buy is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin (RGGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Gas Guarantees of Origin and how these work. We offset the remaining emissions by supporting UN-led REDD+ carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard

Supplier

Highest available green gas offering (as of 31st July 2020)

Green Energy UK

100% biogas

OVO Energy

15% biogas, 85% offset

British Gas

6% biogas, 94% offset

Bulb

4% biogas, 96% offset

Npower

100% offset

Octopus Energy

100% offset

E.ON

100% offset

EDF

No green gas offering

Scottish Power

Figure unavailable

 

2 If all of us in the UK turned our thermostats down by just 1 degree, we’d prevent 8.8 million tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere each year. We know this because turning the thermostat by one degree you can save 320kg of carbon a year, or 0.32 tonnes (Source: Energy Saving Trust). And we multiplied this by the number of households in the UK (ONS, 2018). 

0.32 * 27,600,000t = 8,832,000 tonnes each year.

3By providing 100% renewable electricity and offsetting all associated lifecycle carbon emissions involved in the production and consumption of your electricity, OVO Beyond reduces your yearly carbon emissions from the electricity used in your home to net zero. 

We buy 100% of your energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro. And we do this via renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work.

We also offset the remaining lifecycle carbon emissions from the production of the renewable electricity you use by supporting UN-led REDD+ carbon reduction projects that are certified to the Verified Carbon Standard.

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