Bulb's renewable energy — Bulb Community

Bulb's renewable energy

edited October 2016 in About Bulb
Hello Money Saving Expert members – how are you today?

As you will have heard from MSE, Bulb have been selected as the cheapest fixed green tariff in its Feb 2016 Big Switch. That means that for those of you who make the switch, we'll be your new energy supplier. I know what you're thinking and we're pretty excited about it too. You might not have heard much about Bulb, so this is our chance to put you into the loop.

Bulb was born in 2014. Not only is our electricity 100% renewable (something only two other suppliers can claim), we also provide 10% renewable gas. And this doesn't even count all the trees we've planted for our members.

We’re also low cost and have market leading service. This winter so far we have reduced our prices twice in order to pass on savings from lower wholesale energy costs. We also have the highest rated service on the independent review site Trustpilot.

We know you'll have some questions, so we've pulled together some information about our green credentials for you:  

Our 100% renewable electricity

Every electron that we put into the grid is sourced renewably. Right now, most of our electricity comes from ‘run of river’ hydro plants. For example, Llyn Brenig in Wales. As more members join us, we'll support more and more independent renewable generators.

Ofgem certification
All renewable electricity comes with an Ofgem issued Renewables Obligation Certificate. This means that you can be sure that the electricity you're using in your home is 100% renewable. At the time of writing, around 20% of UK electricity comes from renewable sources, so you're massively reducing your carbon footprint by joining Bulb.
 

Our green gas

We have to say, we're pretty proud that at least 10% of our gas comes from renewable sources, which is 100 times higher than the national average of 0.1%. We've partnered with anaerobic digesters to generate our green gas from the waste slurry of piggeries in Oxfordshire. We'll continue working with more green gas producers to keep increasing our green gas proportions and supporting this exciting new technology.

What is green gas?
Green gas, or biomethane, is methane that naturally occurs through decomposition of organic matter. When bacteria break down plant material, sewage and organic waste this releases methane. This methane can be captured, refined and fed into the gas grid. Biomethane is carbon neutral, meaning there is no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In other words, it does not contribute to an increase in global warming. You can read more about the environmental benefits of biomethane on biomethane.org.

Certification
All of the biomethane that we source is certified by the Green Gas Certification Scheme. This ensures that our green gas is tracked from production to end use, and is indeed renewable. All of this gas comes with a Renewable Gas Guarantee of Origin certificate which lets us prove our fuel mix.
 

Trees make the world a better place

We want to make choosing clean energy an easy decision. We keep our prices low and provide industry leading service, but we want to do even more to make it a complete no-brainer...

We think trees simply make the world a better place which is why we're donating to The Tree Council for every member that joined us through the February 2016 MSE Collective Switch.

Supporting The Tree Council
We're working with The Tree Council (registered charity number 279000) to plant trees in places where people live, work, study and spend their leisure time across the UK. We will donate £10 for each dual fuel member, £5 for electricity only members. The Tree Council use donations in a variety of different ways but a £10 donation could provide 10 little trees for little hands to plant. This means that 10 new Bulb members would donate enough for a green oasis in a school. We wouldn't be able to do this without you joining us, so thanks for making this happen. You can read more about The Tree Council here.

So, why trees?
Not only are they great for the environment, we think that trees just make the world a better place, a sentiment that we share with The Tree Council. We believe that trees play a key part in our well being and enjoyment of life. This isn't just wishful thinking. For example, Scientific American reported a study where patients who had a view looking out on leafy trees "healed, on average, a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer post-surgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall." That's a really cool finding and we want to bring the same benefits to people all over the UK. To quote the architect Richard Rogers, “everyone should be able to see a tree from their nearest window.”

We hope that clears everything up, but if you have any questions about anything then fire away. Our member community means that we're all ears and you can talk to us however and whenever you like.

All the best,
Team Bulb

hello@bulb.co.uk
Tel: 0300 30 30 635

Comments

  • Wow the tree medication sounds interesting, I am looking at all the trees round us ( we live in a rural area) hoping it might ease my headache but it hasn't worked maybe I will pop a couple of paracetamol down I suspect that might are more productive in this case :)
    I love these scientific facts do keep posting things like this, I will have a look at the biome thane and aerobic digesters information as well.
  • Treatment of around 10,000 tonnes of pig slurry annually. This pig slurry, produced at a local piggery, is currently spread in its raw form onto the local farmland as a fertiliser, which can result in odour problems from time to time. By processing the slurry through the digesters, not only will the methane be extracted (and methane is one of the single largest contributors to our greenhouse gas emissions), but the resulting digestate will have been substantially de-odourised, meaning that when spread onto the fields, the smell will be almost completely absent.

    Just taken this from the link in the above, the one extra thing that must be such a positive is the de-odourising, sometimes the smell from the fields surrounding us is so bad it takes your breath away and often its not ploughed in quite as quickly as it should be.
  • I received an email today from Ecotricity trying to get me to join them with their claim to supply "Britain's Greenest Energy". They make a couple of statements that I think Bulb need to challenge:
    "the electricity we supply is the greenest of any company in Britain, by some way." - This heads a table showing the green percentage of electricity from most providers - but not including Bulb!
    "we’re the only company supplying green gas in Britain" - again, no mention of Bulb.
    One statement they make, however, I do find interesting: "all of the Green Gas we supply comes with our Frack Free Promise". Well, if it's green gas it doesn't need a "frack-free promise"! But how about a statement about fracking and fossil gas? Can Bulb say anything about this?
  • @renewab

    Great shout. We'll take a look at what Ecotricity is saying and let them know about the error of their ways.

    We're definitely not fans of fracking. None of our energy comes from fracking sources, we won't ever buy fracked gas and we'll continue to increase the proportion of our energy that comes from green sources.

    We'll write up a post about fracking and get it up asap. I'll ping you in it so you can take a look too.
  • Hi @renewab thanks so much for joining the community and what a great first post too.

    @Amit and I are preparing this fracking post and share it with you today.

    I take it renewable energy is something you're pretty interested in. Green gas is something that we feel is very important. Are there any other renewable projects that we could be working on that you think are important? How about solar panel feed in tariffs, or helping people reduce their energy usage?
  • I joined Bulb primarily because of its green commitment; prices are very attractive too, but not of over-riding importance. I had intended to go to Woodland Trust Energy, but it fizzled out! So Bulb had taken its place as the best (maybe only?) real contender, and here I am.
    So yes, any info concerning renewable progress and innovation would be welcome. And discussions on these topics invaluable - suitable for promotion via twitter/fb?
  • edited March 2016
    @renewab

    Great to hear. How about articles like this one? Is this the sort of thing you'd share?

    https://community.bulb.co.uk/discussion/134/strange-but-true-a-hydro-plant-in-the-worlds-driest-desert
  • Hi @hayden
    hayden said:


    ... Are there any other renewable projects that we could be working on that you think are important? How about solar panel feed in tariffs, or helping people reduce their energy usage?

    A big thumbs up to solar panel feed in tariffs and helping people reduce energy usage.

    Also, how about for every retail/food business that signs up you install an electric car charging point on their site?
    Ones like the Ecotricity fast chargers that are in motorway service stations now. They are great, but these fast chargers need to be everywhere - cinemas, shopping centres, restaurants, pubs...... I am sure the cost would be offset by the advertising - you'd have a permanent billboard on-site! There is a particular need the further north you go, and on A roads where there aren't service stations.

    Mary.
  • That's a really interesting idea! We've been thinking of ways that we could make it more attractive to sign up for businesses, especially ones that are interested in being greener. Offsetting the cost of EV charging ports with advertising like this is really savvy.

    This sounds like a pretty big project and it'll take a lot of elbow grease and time to make a move on, but definitely one to look into. Great idea @maryrcrumpton. Thank you!
  • Hi @hayden

    hayden said:


    ... Are there any other renewable projects that we could be working on that you think are important? How about solar panel feed in tariffs, or helping people reduce their energy usage?

    A big thumbs up to solar panel feed in tariffs and helping people reduce energy usage.

    Also, how about for every retail/food business that signs up you install an electric car charging point on their site?
    Ones like the Ecotricity fast chargers that are in motorway service stations now. They are great, but these fast chargers need to be everywhere - cinemas, shopping centres, restaurants, pubs...... I am sure the cost would be offset by the advertising - you'd have a permanent billboard on-site! There is a particular need the further north you go, and on A roads where there aren't service stations.

    Mary.
    Hey @maryrcrumpton - first of all, it's good to see you here, welcome to Bulb!

    I love your idea of supplying an electric car charging point on their site for every sign up from a retail or food business, it certainly is a fantastic idea and something I'm sure the guys will be interested into looking at. It looks like you've touched on something I was going to mention though, it might be a little expensive to install those little charging points and to supply the electric (I'm not 100% sure how they work, so don't quote me on that!), but it sure would be an awesome way of advertising, that's for sure.

    Awesome thinking Mary, I like it!

  • edited March 2016
    Hi @hayden , @will , and @mitchell ,

    Well, I was thinking that the businesses themselves would be covering the cost of the electricity used by cars plugging in - a perk to their customers that honestly will cost them very very little as a percentage of their overall business energy costs, and will attract more custom their way, and be good PR for them. So, bulb would just need to cover the installation costs.

    There are basically 3 different types of points.
    We have a Nissan Leaf electric car, which has a 24kWh battery, so I will use that as an example of how they are used.

    Your standard 3 pin socket at home will give you 2kW single phase, so it takes up to 12 hours to charge our Leaf (if we have *completely* drained it, which we never do). You could just pay for an external socket for the business, but to be honest, that won't attract many EV drivers as it is too slow unless you are staying overnight, so I would ignore this option.

    Elektromotive (www.elektromotive.com) will do charging points for you, that can supply 7kW single phase, so take about 3 hours to fully charge an empty Leaf. Not a bad option, but only really good at somewhere like a cinema or theatre where you know someone will be there for a minimum of 2-3 hours. Better than nothing though. And considerably cheaper than rapid chargers (see below).

    To my mind, the best option (though the most expensive to install) are the rapid chargers. The Ecotricity ones (they call them "fast chargers") at motorway service stations are about 45kWh three-phase I think. For us, it means that we can charge up to 80% full in about half an hour (it trickle charges once it gets to 80% full), which is about the length of time it takes to drink a hot chocolate and use the loo. Alternatively we just have a quick 10 minute top-up to give us a chunk extra. You can get similar rapid charging points via a firm called Charge Your Car (www.chargeyourcar.org.uk). They list accredited manufacturers on their website here: www.chargeyourcar.org.uk/charge-point-owner/faqs

    These are a bit of an investment (I guess £15,000 but I have no idea if that is an accurate figure) - but it is worth comparing that cost with the cost of a 24-7 billboard advertisment - adverts cost LOTS in areas with high footfall / traffic. If you were to install fast chargers in the car parks of pubs/restaurants/hotels/non-motorway services, etc then loads of people would see them - customers as well as people plugging in - charging points tend to be near the front door (I guess in case the driver is disabled? or perhaps it's just easier to get the electric there) so in areas of high footfall. And once you have installed it, it'd be there for a very long time, so you are paying a large sum upfront for the benefit of many years prime location advertising (and feeling good about having done something awesome). And of course, many of the people plugging in to it are your target market - people who care about their electricity being renewable - so it is targeted advertising. And as I am sure you appreciate, advertising that reaches your target market directly is incredibly expensive.

    Mary x

    PS you said you liked essays, right? ;-)
  • edited March 2016
    Hey @maryrcrumpton,

    Excellent analysis. It's especially useful to have even rough ideas of the costs, so thanks for pulling that together!

    You've thought it through and come up with some excellent options. This is definitely something that we'll look into at the very least. We're genuinely really impressed by this. It's a super smart way to encourage EVs, promote Bulb and get more people using renewables. Did we tell you that @amit is planning on getting on getting an electric car too? He's going to paint it Bulb pink!

    We'll definitely look into it. To add some sort of level of expectations to this, because it's going to be such a big project it will have to go on the back burner a bit while we work on projects that we have pegged as our highest priority, like smart meters and energy monitors. We'll keep you in the loop about how it goes when we do look into it.

    PS: Love essays :)
  • Hey @renewab

    Amit's just posted an in depth post on our position on fracking. We said we'd post this last week, but it took a bit longer to pull together. Here it is now though

    https://community.bulb.co.uk/discussion/181/where-does-bulb-stand-on-fracking

    Hope you find it interesting
  • Hi @will, thanks for that - well worth the wait. Thoroughness is worth so much more than an off-the-cuff reactive response. Really interested in how the thread is developing.
    Keep it up and thanks again...
  • Great stuff, glad you found it useful @renewab.

    If there's anything else like this that comes to mind, just shout.
  • hayden said:

    Did we tell you that @amit is planning on getting on getting an electric car too? He's going to paint it Bulb pink!

    Vroom vroom.
  • Hi @hayden , yes, I realise it will need some research and costing etc, and take a while - shout if you need a hand ;-)

    And @amit , what sort of EV are you thinking of buying? I can strongly recommend the Nissan Leaf - we love it. It has enough real world range for most trips, and with the motorway chargers the sky is the limit! We regularly do Manchester to London and back in it visiting relatives. Still need more charging points out there, but there are enough to get by - just have to plan your journey a little bit. If you have cause to be in Manchester you should drop in and take ours for a spin and see what you think.

    Mary x
  • Thanks for the offer @maryrcrumpton, if I'm in Manchester i'll take you up on that! And thanks alot for the numbers too, having rapid EV chargers is something we'd love to do in the future.

    Am strongly considering the Nissan leaf. One hurdle to overcome first is that I live in a flat and don't have a garage. There aren't a huge number of charging stations in the borough I live in so I'm planning on speaking to the council to get one installed on our street. Is this something you've looked into before?

    We regularly use the car to drive to Gloucester and back (112 miles) so that is within the Nissan Leaf range. Are there any other EVs that you'd suggest with a longer range but not in the same price bracket as Tesla/ BMW?

    Amit
  • Hi @amit ,

    Our council have installed chargers on a few residential streets already, so asking them to do it is not something I have had to look into. We live in a terraced house, so don't have a garage either, but we just run an extension lead out across the pavement, with a brightly coloured mat over it so no-one falls over it. If you can put the car close enough to the flat to run a lead out from somewhere you'd be sorted, but there are probably other options too.

    Check out zap map for where all the various chargers near you are. Or if you have a Nissan garage near you you can charge a leaf there for free.

    As for range, I think anything with a noticeably bigger range than a leaf will be much more expensive. And really there is no need. To do the 112 miles you might need one quick top-up charging stop, unless you crawl along, but a 15 min stop while you use the loo and grab a drink is really no hassle at all. The charging at motorway services is free.
    (Not sure if it is the services or ecotricity that pays for the electricity now I come to think about it - hope we get bulb charging points soon ;-) )

    Mary x
  • Hi - we're thinking of switching but would like to know a bit more about your renewable electricity. What we're looking for is a supplier that will result in our money being used to encourage further development of plants we support. We're all in favour of hydro, solar, wind and tidal. Local to us, a major energy supplier is currently building an incinerator for landfill waste. They have been able to categorise the energy this plant will produce as "renewable". While we accept opinion may be divided on that point, we are not in favour and don't want our energy money supporting such projects. Are you able to give a breakdown of where your electricity is sourced from and whether you use such plants yourselves?

    Many thanks,

    David
  • edited October 2016
    Hi @david1977 certainly, and we're actually in the process of creating a dedicated page on our site as it's something that comes up fairly often.

    About 90% of our electricity comes from hydro. We have agreements with several run of river hydro plants in Scotland and Wales, and these fill most of our needs. Whenever we need more energy than these can provide we buy renewable energy from the wholesale market. Generally Solar, Wind and Hydro.

    We do not buy from the more controversial sources of renewable power. Like Drax that burn wood pellets for renewable energy.

    We haven't thought too hard about incinerating landfill. I don't think we can promise that we will never do it, but we don't at the moment. Landfill is tricky because if it isn't burned then it will leak methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 30x worse than CO2, so there is a case to be made for it.
  • Hi, I am really happy to be using a more responsible energy supplier, but I just had a quick question based on a conversation I had today with someone about hydro power.
    Despite being touted as a greener alternative to energy production,I've heard a few negatives, including:
    Sometimes the water used to produce the electricity has to be pumped back into the dam to refill it, obviously using energy in the process. OR perhaps this is a misunderstanding of some other issue with sourcing the water or locating the dam? (I'll admit this was purely word of mouth, and I haven't corroborated it yet by another source)
    The effects on the local ecosystem due to the creation of a dam, and any ongoing effects caused by it. This has been particularly noticed by a recent review of emissions from reservoirs etc (see here: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/66/11/949/2754271/Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions-from-Reservoir-Water)
    For example:"When CH4, CO2, and N2O emissions are combined, our synthesis suggests that reservoir water surfaces contribute 0.8 Pg CO2 equivalents per year over a 100-year time span,..and 1.3% of global anthropogenic CO2-equivalent emissions from well mixed GHGs overall (Myhre et al. 2013). Therefore, we argue for inclusion of GHG fluxes from reservoir surfaces in future IPCC budgets and other inventories of anthropogenic GHG emissions."
    I won't pretend to understand this all, but it would be great to get some feedback from those in the know about the potential undesirable impacts of using hydro energy and how it can be mitigated.
    Following on from that, I was interested in your mention of sourcing other supplies of electricity too. Given the potential for negative effects of hydro power, will you be shifting some of sources to solar or wind energy, given the (presumably) reduced environmental knock on effects of these systems?

    Many thanks for any response in advance.

    Mark
  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your message, fantastic to hear from people interested in this topic,

    Hydro generation has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any renewable energy generation, So we love it. Our hydro comes from rivers (not dams) so it is great for the ecosystem and also a great source of energy due to the reliability of river currents, The intermittency of solar and wind mean that we need a mix of renewable sources and so cannot just focus on solar or wind.

    Go here for more on the impacts of different renewable sources here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources

    Ultimately the impacts of renewable energy are much lower than non-renewable energy generation and that is why at Bulb we proudly supply renewable energy to our members.

    Thanks very much
    James
  • james_d said:


    Hydro generation has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any renewable energy generation, So we love it. Our hydro comes from rivers (not dams) so it is great for the ecosystem and also a great source of energy due to the reliability of river currents, The intermittency of solar and wind mean that we need a mix of renewable sources and so cannot just focus on solar or wind.
    ...
    Ultimately the impacts of renewable energy are much lower than non-renewable energy generation and that is why at Bulb we proudly supply renewable energy to our members.

    Thanks for the info, and I totally agree that we need to harness as many renewable energy sources as we can to truly tackle this issue.

    I just started reading "Sustainability Without the Hot Air" by David Mackay, so hopefully that will help me understand it all a bit more soon!

    Regards,
    Mark
  • Out of interest, what are your current proportions of energy from different sources, in % of total, or raw potential kWh etc.?
  • james_d said:



    Go here for more on the impacts of different renewable sources here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources

    Looking at that link, I noticed that the hydro equivalent CO2/kWh actually had the HIGHEST potential greenhouse effect, over twice that of coal (!!!) in worst case scenario.

    However, the minimum was the lowest (1.0) and median (24) was only higher than wind (both onshore and offshore - ~11/12) and nuclear (12, that's a debate for another day :D ).

    I really hope your hydro source is indeed on the lower end of that scale. Do you have any way of finding out the gCO2eq/kWh values for your sources of electricity too?

    Sorry for questions overload, it's just a really interesting topic :)

    Regards,
  • edited March 2017
    Hi @mark_k

    Great point, there are some extreme outliers with hydro, but these will be from sites that have both massive dams that require huge amounts of concrete and also flood vast areas resulting in a large net methane emission from decomposing vegetation. And you can see in the graph below that the biggest outlier is a special case when decommissioning.

    We don't use any hydro sources like that. All of our hydro is run of river, which means no dam and no flooding. I've taken a read through this IPPC report and pulled out a screenshot of this graph from page 85. It shows that the range for run of river maxes out at about 14g/kWh at the top end, and averaging for even less.

    Hope this answers your concerns :)

    image

    Edit: I went on a hunt for the 2200 number and I've found it in this other IPPC report on page 1335. Unfortunately, I can't find the exact plant that had this massive anomaly, but I feel sure that it was a very rare occurence. The table states that even when methane emissions are accounted for, it only increases the g CO2 equivalent per kWh by 88. The graph above shows that when you exclude anomalies that the range is between 6 and 38, so I'm sure that the 2200 number was something very rare, perhaps a dam failed and caused wide spread damage which released methane and had a high carbon cost during clean up.
  • mark_k said:

    Out of interest, what are your current proportions of energy from different sources, in % of total, or raw potential kWh etc.?

    We're about 85% run of river hydro and 15% biogen from anaerobic digestion. Here's our fuel mix page - https://bulb.co.uk/energy/fuelmix
  • Thanks so much for the extra info and links. Very pleased to be with such a responsive company!
  • You're welcome. If you're happy then we're happy too!
  • We haven't thought too hard about incinerating landfill. I don't think we can promise that we will never do it, but we don't at the moment. Landfill is tricky because if it isn't burned then it will leak methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 30x worse than CO2, so there is a case to be made for it.

    Apologies for not responding to this sooner - I really appreciate that you came back to me with a response so quickly.

    Having now bought a plug-in hybrid for my commute to work, we're actively looking to switch so that the driving is truly green.

    While I understand the arguments about methane, I'm personally not in favour of incineration - not least because waste demand in my part of the country already meets supply, so additional incineration would actually require it to be shipped in from elsewhere (largely by road - with all the emissions that entails). The health impact is also not fully understood - our local NHS trust opposed the plant for that reason. I accept opposition to incineration is a personal view, but my main concern is that I don't want my "green" funds being used to encourage such a plant.

    While I'd dearly love you to guarantee you'll never use it, I appreciate if you can't make that promise. Could you though provide some reassurance that sufficient notice would be provided to allow me to switch my business away before any such decision was made?
  • edited August 2017
    david1977 said:

    While I'd dearly love you to guarantee you'll never use it, I appreciate if you can't make that promise. Could you though provide some reassurance that sufficient notice would be provided to allow me to switch my business away before any such decision was made?

    Hi David,

    We do have a tiny amount (<1%) of our renewables fuel mix that comes from landfill. The source we buy from converts the harmful methane emitted by the landfill into gas fit for domestic supply, The same plant also produces solar from onsite panels. We're likely to continue having landfill as part of our mix.

    We would be terribly sorry to see you go, but completely understand if you're not comfortable with this fuel source.

    All the best,

    Jenny
  • Great to see the 100,000 customer landmark hit! Fingers crossed the momentum continues but I was wondering what all these new customers mean for your supply. It seems like hydro PPAs have been the focus up to now. Is this likely to change with so many new people to supply?
  • @alex thanks so much Alex! We're pretty stoked ourselves.

    We're always investigating new generators to purchase our energy from. Our focus has been on hydro but we're looking to get a few new ones into the mix :)
  • edited April 2018
    We do have a tiny amount (less than 1 per cent) of our renewables fuel mix that comes from landfill. The source we buy from converts the harmful methane emitted by the landfill into gas fit for domestic supply.

    Thanks for your response. I'm not actually clear what this means. Are we talking about capturing the methane that is released by landfill, or are we talking about active incineration of the waste (also known as "energy from waste")? It's the latter I'm concerned about as local to us, it's resulting in literally hundreds of lorries shipping rubbish from other parts of the country (we already have more incineration capacity than landfill supply). My issue is the burning and shipping of waste (which encourages other areas not to recycle). If it's simply capture of gas from existing landfill, I'm less concerned.
  • Hi @david1977, we're talking about the first one - we simply capture gas from existing landfill. Bulb generators aren't burning waste.
  • Hi @david1977, we're talking about the first one - we simply capture gas from existing landfill. Bulb generators aren't burning waste.

    Thanks Hayden. If that's the case, I'm happy. Is EfW something you're ever likely to do?

  • @david1977 We want to ensure that the green gas that we source is as green as we can get it. In that sense, we won't be looking to look into EfW - we'll look more into biomass and similar sources.
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