Ensuring growth in Green Energy Production

For me to join a green energy supplier, the commitment I’m looking for is pretty simple. If I add say 30,000kWh/year to Bulb’s total energy sales, I want to be certain that Bulb will procure the same amount from additional newly produced green energy. Buying energy from an existing hydro scheme changes nothing as its already there and feeding into the grid, allocating some of that to me personally doesn’t improve the situation. If the result of my joining is that Bulb procures another fraction of a wind turbine or funds a new hydro scheme then we are doing something constructive. This needs to be crystal clear for interested people to make the right decision.

@Martin_Evans, sadly if you’re looking for that, this may not be the right place for you to be.

Bulb’s focus is on supplying 100% renewable electricity to the masses and keeping prices low.

They produce no energy of their own and as they don’t change the demand for electricity (and more renewables are being generated than the completely renewable companies supply to consumers already), they’re just buying what’s already there.

If you’re looking for a company who’s really investing in renewable generation, perhaps try Good Energy or Octopus.

Bulb’s gas is also not as green as other companies mentioned. 10% green, 90% dirty with no carbon offsetting.

Something I’m interested in is where the extra energy is coming from to match the demand doubling that’s happened recently. Double the number of customers = double the energy (or more with it being the winter).
Are the existing biomethane plants that Bulb buy from big enough to take up the 100% increase in demand?
Has the percentage of UK hydro and wind generated energy in the Bulb electricity mix decreased with more being purchased from elsewhere (abroad?) ?

@Martin_Evans I think our answer would closely track what @mowcius wrote. We do not distinguish between ‘newly produced’ green energy and already-extant production capacity when making our procurement decisions.

However, we argue that by creating steady demand for green energy, we encourage greater investments in green energy production capacity. Our steadily growing customer base provides a signal to green energy investors, funds, and most importantly entrepreneurs and developers that if they build it, we will come.

Regarding the issue of green gas, given our current customer numbers, we could go to 100% gas coming from biomethane, but we’re concerned that won’t be true by 2018. So, again, our theory of the case is that our 10% green gas promise provides a valuable signal to biomethane plant developers and funders that if they build it, we will come.

No gas or electricity from abroad – all production in our fuel mix is domestic, right now. (The one caveat is for the 90% of our gas that’s not ‘green’, it’s hard to know exact provenance.)

@Martin_Evans I think our answer would closely track what @mowcius wrote. We do not distinguish between 'newly produced' green energy and already-extant production capacity when making our procurement decisions.

However, we argue that by creating steady demand for green energy, we encourage greater investments in green energy production capacity. Our steadily growing customer base provides a signal to green energy investors, funds, and most importantly entrepreneurs and developers that if they build it, we will come.


I nearly wrote a paragraph about this but I’ve never been totally sold on this view. Bulb’s customer base is growing quickly which definitely signals something but I suspect that right now it shows that people want free money and cheap electricity. :mrgreen:
Whether this will change in the future when people discover the joys of not being with a crap energy company and the warm fuzzy feeling that helping the planet gives, is another question.
Regarding the issue of green gas, given our current customer numbers, we could go to 100% gas coming from biomethane, but we're concerned that won't be true by 2018. So, again, our theory of the case is that our 10% green gas promise provides a valuable signal to biomethane plant developers and funders that if they build it, we will come.
That's fascinating. Could you offer it as an option? I used to pay Good Energy just over 4p/kWh for gas (where less was domestic biomethane but all of it was carbon offset) complete with a higher standing charge so I would happily pay considerably more than the 2.516 I pay now for 100% biomethane in my supply. It's unlikely that most people are going to want to pay that bit more but providing the option really would set you apart from the other renewable suppliers. Personally this is the best thing I've heard for a while!
No gas or electricity from abroad -- all production in our fuel mix is domestic, right now. (The one caveat is for the 90% of our gas that's not 'green', it's hard to know exact provenance.)
Do you have any plans to guarantee this going forward? I know it's part of the sales pitch from other companies and was one of the things other people I've spoken to have been concerned about. It's not clear anywhere on your website that this is what you currently offer.

Do you know roughly what member numbers you could go up to being able to guarantee 100% domestic renewables, and separately, 100% biomethane?

@mowcius LOL good point that it’s not yet clear what Bulb’s fast-growing customer base represents. Incisive, fair point.

Regarding a 100% biomethane gas tariff, right now our strategy is to avoid charging premiums for bells and whistles. One of @amit and @hayden’s original motivations to start Bulb was frustration that other suppliers charged an unjustifiably high premium for green energy.

I’ve seen estimates from Cadent Safety and Network Strategy Director David Parkin that currently there’s about 1.79 TWh /pa of biomethane capacity in the UK. (See http://www.cngservices.co.uk/images/BiomethaneDay/2017/David-Parkin---Future-Role-of-Biomethane.pdf.) The medium home uses 12000 kWh of gas, so I make that about 150,000 medium-sized homes.

Regarding energy from abroad, we shan’t guarantee we’ll always avoid it, but our current procurement strategy is to buy from UK sources.

The medium home uses 1200 kWh of gas, so I make that about 150,000 medium-sized homes.
Did you mean 12000? Presumably you can't buy all of the biomethane in the country though... Good Energy alone must take over 5000 homes worth of that at the moment and they're by no means the only other green gas supplier.

Do you know how much you can purchase at (close to) the wholesale price you’re currently buying at?

When you start getting anywhere near 1M customers, I imagine 10% biomethane for all customers will become rather challenging. If growth continues at the pace it has so far, that could occur near the end of next year.
What are your plans for that situation?

Regarding energy from abroad, we shan't guarantee we'll always avoid it, but our current procurement strategy is to buy from UK sources.
That's a slightly disappointing but not unexpected answer. Thanks for the honesty.

@mowcius I did mean 12000, argh! I’m going to edit my original post.

It’s hard to know how much biomethane is ‘available’ to Bulb at current prices.

The good thing is that biomethane capacity has been increasing somewhat rapidly. See p.5 of http://www.cngservices.co.uk/images/BiomethaneDay/2017/David-Parkin---Future-Role-of-Biomethane.pdf. So, for now, we’re not worried about running out biomethane to support our 10% pledge.

@mowcius I did mean 12000, argh! I'm going to edit my original post.
Sneaky :smirk:
The good thing is that biomethane capacity has been increasing somewhat rapidly. See p.5 of http://www.cngservices.co.uk/images/BiomethaneDay/2017/David-Parkin---Future-Role-of-Biomethane.pdf. So, for now, we're not worried about running out biomethane to support our 10% pledge.
That's an interesting read, thanks for the link!