Advertising regulator upholds Ecotricity claim as ‘Britain’s greenest energy provider’


ASA logoThe UK Advertising Standards Authority has dismissed a claim by Tesla – the manufacturer of battery-powered vehicles (BPVs) –  that renewable-energy provider Ecotricity’s electricity was not wholly-renewable has been dismissed by the regulator.

It investigated a number of claims on Ecotricity’s website about its energy supply which included “Britain’s greenest energy” and “The electricity we supply is the greenest of any company in Britain”.

Tesla Motors Ltd said that these claims were misleading and could not be substantiated.

But in an unexpected twist, rival ‘green’ energy provider Good Energy, announced last night it is now to challenge the ASA ruling that Ecotricity is  “Britain’s greenest energy” supplier.

David Brooks, Good Energy Managing Director, said: “We’re surprised and disappointed by this ruling and intend to challenge it. The ASA appears to have based its decision purely on data provided by Ecotricity without considering whether that data represents an objective view.

“Obviously, the criteria Ecotricity has chosen to measure itself against other companies has been selected to suit Ecotricity. We don’t think the ASA has considered what it calls “suitable comparative data” before reaching its conclusions.

“Since we started over 15 years ago, Good Energy has only ever provided 100% renewable electricity. We’re the only company which has never included fossil fuels in our “fuel mix”.”

Ecotricity explained that in the UK, the accepted methodology for comparing electricity sources was via the Fuel Mix Disclosure (FMD) which OFGEM required to be published each year. The FMD broke down the electricity supplied each year by its method of generation: coal; natural gas; nuclear; other; and renewables, and an emissions factor was assigned to each method of generation.

Those figures were used to calculate the average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per kilo watt hours (kWh) of electricity supplied. They went on to explain that renewable sources had an emissions factor of zero because they did not produce any emissions during generation.

Ecotricity submitted evidence of the CO2 emissions (g per kWh of electricity produced) for the following generation methods: coal; gas; photovoltaic (commonly used in solar panels); wave and tidal; biogas (anaerobic digestion & landfill); offshore and onshore wind; nuclear; and hydro-electric. That showed coal had the highest CO2 emissions and that on-shore wind had one of the lowest.

In its adjudication, the ASA said Ecotricity had supplied the FMD for their electricity and that of their only commercial competitor who also provided electricity which came from 100% renewable sources.

They had compared the CO2 emissions from the lifecycle of both which showed that Ecotricity’s was 10.7 g CO2 per kWh compared to that of their competitor at 18.2 g CO2 per kWh. Therefore, they believed they had substantiated their claim of “greenest electricity”.

Ecotricity said they were the only supplier to also provide “green gas” which was composed of mostly natural gas with a small percentage of sugar beet derived gas.

They provided evidence which demonstrated that their “green gas” had been certified.

They said that as yet, there was no prescribed methodology for assessing “green gas” sources like there was for electricity.

However, because nobody else supplied “green gas” they compared their own “green gas” to the norm which was 100% fossil fuel derived. They said that lifecycle emissions associated with gas from sugar beet (the source of their green gas) were 99 g CO2 per kWh compared to 199 g CO2 per kWh when burning fossil fuel gas.

They went on to explain that the fuel mix of their “green gas” was comprised of 5% sugar beet derived gas and 95% fossil fuel derived gas. Subsequently, they said their “green gas” had a combined emissions value of 197 g CO2 per kWh.

Because of the life cycle CO2 emissions for their electricity and that they were the only supplier to provide “green gas”, Ecotricity believed the claims that they supplied the greenest energy in Britain had been substantiated and were not misleading.

 

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