Is Bulb Renewable Energy Really Green?

Bulb Energy originally launched in 2015 has grown from a small supplier in 2018 with about a 1% market share to become officially recognised by Ofgem as a large supplier in 2020 with about a 5% domestic market share. One of the reasons Bulb is popular is that they are able to offer reasonably priced green energy.

Renewable energy has become more of a factor in consumers' choice of which supplier they switch to. However it is difficult to compare green energy suppliers on a like for like basis due to how suppliers can claim to supply renewable energy.

What is renewable energy?

When companies refer to supplying 100% renewable energy they are talking about their electricity rather than gas. Renewable electricity is generated predominantly by wind, solar and hydro although tidal, wave energy and burning methane from biomass to generate electricity also plays a part.

All of the electricity in the UK is fed into the national grid so energy generated from a wind turbine is fed into the same network as electricity generated from a gas fired powerstation. It means that there is no way to guarantee the actual electricity you consume in your home is from a renewable source.

It's important to understand that the renewable energy that you are buying from your supplier is guaranteed to have been generated and fed into the grid and accounted for by REGOs (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin) that are allocated to renewable energy companies that generate the electricity and sell the certificates to suppliers.

Unfortunately there is no easy way to distinguish suppliers that match their REGO certificates 100% to purchases of renewable electricity (Truly green electricity) and those suppliers that can purchase REGO certificates that are not matched 100% to the purchase of renewable electricity (so called Green washing or greened-up tariffs).

Johnny Gowdy of Regen does a great job of explaining REGO certificates if you want to know more. The problem is that energy suppliers can buy second hand REGO certificates from other suppliers and still claim to offer 100% renewable electricity.

Let's say that British Gas purchased REGO certificates from a wind energy generator and offered a green tariff to its customers. If British Gas did not sell enough of their green tariff to account for all of the renewable energy they originally purchased then they could sell the unused certificates on to another supplier who could then claim they were supplying renewable electricity.

The problem is that the buyer of the second hand certificates did not have to buy any renewable energy and could spend as little as £1 on REGOs to cover a single customer. It's the reason some suppliers can sell renewable tariffs so cheaply.

However the number of original virgin REGO certificates must match actual renewable energy generated so the green energy has been pumped into the grid at some point. The problem is some suppliers claiming second hand certificates can undercut the truly green suppliers which will de-incentivise renewable energy generation over the long term.


Bulb's Renewable Energy

Bulb offers 100% renewable electricity backed up by REGO certificates. Additionally it has direct relationships with renewable energy generators around the UK to buy green electricity generated by wind, solar and hydro.

Bulb's gas supply is 100% carbon offset and is also the UK's largest buyer of Green Gas (biomethane) in the UK for domestic customers. Bulb has relationships with UK biomethane producers that generates green gas from energy crops and organic waste.

Bulb Renewable Energy

So how green is the renewable electricity from Bulb Energy? In general suppliers that are passionate about selling truly green energy to customers will make a point of it on their website. Suppliers that provide little information on their website about where their energy comes from or remain vague are usually not so green.

Bulb Renewable Electricity

Bulb are quite proud of the progress they have made in providing an affordable green tariff backed up by plenty of information to qualify its origin.

At the time of writing Bulb's fuel mix is 100% renewable made up of 78% Wind, 18% solar and 4% hydro. Most of their electricity is purchased on the wholesale energy market and backed by REGO certificates although they do have direct relationships with producers of renewable electricity that they buy direct from.

By having a direct relationship with energy producers across the UK Bulb are directly supporting UK energy producers from a small community cooperative Bro Dyfi Community Renewables in Wales to large scale wind energy companies such as Orsted.

Bulb Green Gas

As well as 100% renewable electricity the gas supplied by Bulb is 100% carbon offset through ClimateCare to support projects around the world that reduce carbon emissions. In addition in 2019/2020 4% of their gas supply was green, 2018/2019 they supplied 10% green gas.

Green gas is made by producing methane from waste and specifically grown fuel crops to produce biomethane. The green gas Bulb customers get is produced mostly from purpose grown crops (74%) but an encouraging 18% was made up from farm and food waste and a further 8% was generated from residues which they say includes vegetable peelings and cereal straw.

The biomethane produced from crops and organic waste is considered sustainable as the carbon released from burning this type of green gas was originally absorbed from the atmosphere when the crops were grown. In comparison burning natural gas which is pumped up from sites like offshore gas rigs adds additional carbon to the atmosphere when it is burned.

Bulb bought more green gas to supply their customers than any other supplier in 2019 accounting for some 715 GWh (GigaWatt Hours). For domestic usage that's more than all the other suppliers added together.

What is the cost of Bulb's green energy?

Only one tariff is offered by Bulb, the variable rate tariff Vari-Fair although the cost will vary depending on your region and whether you are on a prepayment meter , standard direct debit or on economy 7 .

At Safe Energy Switch we always do our comparisons like for like so all the quotes we get from suppliers are based on the average UK household in the Eastern region. Unless specified we use the cheapest direct debit quote from the supplier.

As Bulb does not offer fixed tariffs and the level of service and quality of green energy is going to vary from supplier to supplier the cost has to be taken as part of your decision in choosing a supplier to switch to.

Supplier Tariff Monthly Cost
Utility Point Just Up 21 12M Fixed Wk09 £77.91
Hub Energy HUB Smart Choice Tariff 12 March 22 v2 £78.00
Goto Energy Standard Variable £78.96
Outfox the Market Fix'd 21 8.0 £79.44
Eon Fix Online Exclusive v63 £79.87
London Power my london fixed yearly plan 12m fixed march 2021v1 £80.43
Scottish Power Greener Future March 2022 B1 £80.43
People's Energy People's Energy Fixed Loyalty Tariff Jan 21 £80.53
OVO Energy Better Smart £80.60
People's Energy People's Energy Fixed Loyalty Tariff Jan 21 £80.53
PFP Energy Fixed - May 2022 - Green v1 Paperless £80.66
Green Mahogany £80.88
Bulb Vari-Fair £81.12
Pure Planet 100% Green Direct 12m Fixed Feb21 v1 £81.39
Octopus Energy Octopus Exclusive 12M Fixed February 2021 v2 £81.43
Shell Energy Energy March 2022 v6 £82.55
So Energy So Carrot Essential v3 - Green £82.57
Bristol Energy BE Simply Green December21 £84.34
Together Energy Green Together Fixed December21 £84.66
SSE Online Energy v9 Paperless Billing £87.43
Sainsbury's Energy Sainsbury's Energy 1 Year Fix and Reward v15 £88.11
M & S Energy M&S 12M Fixed February 2021 v1 £88.73
EDF Simply Online 2 Year Fix Mar23 £88.83
Good Energy Good to Fix December 2022 v5 £96.70
British Gas HomeEnergy Fix Apr 2022 £97.26
Ecotricity Green Electricity + EV £97.56
Green Energy UK Sparkling 2023 £118.71

The comparison table shows the dual fuel tariff prices for the suppliers green energy. Not all of the tariffs shown offer the same level of green. The minimum will be that they offer 100% renewable energy based on the purchase of REGO certificates.

In terms of cost for what Bulb is offering it represents good value. They go further than most of the suppliers listed in the table and the higher price compared to the cheaper budget green suppliers. The higher cost for Bulb's Vari-Fair tariff reflect the fact that they buy some of their electricity and green gas direct from the generators.

Bulb's offering is £3 a month more expensive than the cheapest green energy tariff but offers a cleaner shade of green. If you are looking for a greener deal you'd need to pay significantly more to get 100% green gas with costs up to £118 a month.

In this context Bulb Energy is a good choice to make if you are looking for the most for your money in terms of doing good for the environment and supporting renewable energy.