Electricity retail market upstarts Powershop and Diamond Energy have topped the rankings in the latest review of Australia’s greenest energy suppliers, for the second year in a row.
The 2015 Green Electricity Guide, released on Friday by Greenpeace Australia Pacific and the Total Environment Centre, provides an independent, state-by-state ranking of electricity retailers for environmentally conscious consumers.
The rankings were based on seven criteria: emissions, renewable energy positions and investments, GreenPower products and promotion, support for distributed generation, fossil fuels policy and investments, energy efficiency performance and promotion and environmental transparency.
Powershop, based in Victoria, received top ranking with 8.6 out of a possible score of 10 for owning only renewable energy assets (via its NZ parent company, Meridian Energy), for having an emissions intensity of zero, for supporting the renewable energy target, its public position against coal and CSG mining, its promotion of GreenPower and its offers to solar customers.
Green Electricity Guide rankings aside, Powershop has had huge success in Australia – a success the company’s CEO, Ben Burge, insists comes, not from any particularly new or “disruptive” approach, but from simply providing what customers want, and do not get, from established power companies.“The hatred of power companies, both networks and retailers, is… palpable. There is a deep satisfaction the customer will get by shifting the power base,” Burge told RenewEconomy’s Disruption and the Energy Industry conference in September.“It’s ‘here’s how much you’re using while you’re using it’, nothing ground-breaking about that,” he said, with a broader plan to help customers save money, while “driving an undercurrent of unconscious conservation.”
Diamond Energy, meanwhile, came a close second to Powershop with a score of 8.5 out of 10. It was commended for generating electricity with no fossil fuel power plants, its low GreenPower surcharge and its public positions against coal and CSG investment. Both companies have also directly invested in renewable energy generation in Australia.
The 2015 Green Electricity Guide guide comes at a time when, with the carbon tax long gone, coal generation has reached a new three-year high in Australia’s electricity mix of 75.6 per cent in October, despite notable increases in rooftop solar PV output.
As the Greenpeace-TEC report notes, the electricity sector is Australia’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with only 13 per cent of electricity coming from renewables.
“Australians support renewable energy, but finding out how green your energy provider really is can be difficult,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific climate campaigner Nikola Čašule.
“By giving consumers the information they want, they can change to a greener supplier and hopefully motivate the industry to become cleaner and greener,” she said.
“Some companies have made good progress this year, but Origin Energy, Energy Australia and AGL’s continued average performance should still be a concern for Australians.
Of those three companies – described in the report as the “Dirty Three” and who, between them, supply electricity to more than three-quarters of Australian households – Origin Energy was ranked eighth in the guide, AGL came ninth and EnergyAustralia ranked 10th.
Interestingly, while Origin lost points for the small number of customers it had on 100% GreenPower equivalent, it was also found to have the lowest cost of 100% GreenPower across all retailers in the 2015 Guide.
Origin also ranked fairly well on solar, with PV export prices of slightly better than state averages and “equitable solar offers.”
AGL, meanwhile, lost marks for its investment in coal plants and CSG, for failing to support the RET, and for having emissions intensity close to the NEM average. It also gets a black mark for its solar offers, which were found to be “substantially more expensive” than offers to non-solar customers.
Energy Australia was marked down for largely the same reasons.
Taking out the wooden spoon, however, was Victoria-based supplier People Energy, which won the dubious title of Australia’s least green electricity supplier, with a rating of just 1.9 out of 10.
It was ranked bottom of the 23-organisation league table for providing only basic energy efficiency information to customers, failing to offer GreenPower at all, not having standing offers for customers with solar energy, failing to report sustainability information and for failing to identify its positions on key green energy topics.
“Retailers can choose where they put their money, and likewise consumers can vote with their wallets by choosing retailers that are doing the right thing by investing in renewables, supporting solar customers and promoting GreenPower,” said Mark Byrne from Total Environment Centre.
“Together, we can change the way energy is made and sold in Australia without the expense of going off-grid.”
Powershop’s Burge agrees. “It’s very easy,” he said back in September. “Just take their money. Switch to another company… and on the way out, let the cartel know why you’re leaving.”