Energy boss warns UK is failing in net zero efforts

The CEO of energy firm OVO has said businesses need to put an end to greenwashing as he spelt out a plan to get the UK’s net zero mission back on track, including the proposed reform of ‘100% renewable electricity’ tariffs.

Speaking at an event today backed by Friends of the Earth, Cornwall Insight, Ethical Consumer and Energy Saving Trust, the CEO of OVO, Raman Bhatia, warned without significant change, the UK is on track to miss carbon targets, keeping customers reliant on fossil fuels and exposed to high costs each winter – but that a new way forward is possible.

Bhatia said the UK will fail to reach net zero, without reforming current, system-wide practices by the energy industry. He added both industry and the government need to take bolder, faster action, with energy suppliers encouraged to improve the energy efficiency of UK homes, incentivise customers to shift energy use, encourage the switch to all electric homes and directly contribute to the generation of additional renewable supply.

“This will mean that customers use less energy and save money,” he explained. “It also drives savings back into the UK economy if renewable tariff certificate practises are changed. This is valuable expenditure which could be reinvested into decarbonisation and home upgrades, like insulation.”

He reiterated OVO’s call for a new kitemark system for the green tariff market, helping customers avoid ‘greenwashing’ practices by clearly identifying which tariffs directly support decarbonisation or the generation of renewable energy.

Research commissioned by OVO found significant confusion and mistrust amongst the public on 100% renewable energy tariffs. Currently, 68% of energy consumers do not believe marketed tariffs offering  for greener energy are genuine offers.

The research also uncovered that 81% of people believe that ‘100% renewable electricity’ tariffs backed by REGOs help fund new renewable energy projects – which is not the case.  Only tariffs which fund new green renewable supply would be eligible for the kitemark.

Bhatia  said OVO will launch ‘Path to Zero’, a customer plan going further than any other supplier to help each people to  cut carbon emissions and costs in their homes. Support will include free or heavily discounted low carbon tech like smart thermostats, advice to improve home insulation, free tracking and support understanding energy usage, and being paid for shifting energy use to greener and cheaper times of the day.

The company also announced a new £10 million Green Skills Academy to help the UK tackle the green skills shortage, including the creation of 15,000 jobs. The plan will bring together future skills, education and apprenticeship programmes to shape a greener workforce for decades to come and accelerate the installation of thousands of heat pumps, solar and EV chargers in UK homes.

Bhatia said there was now a real need for a national drive towards a decarbonised heating system.

Bhatia said: “I am the CEO of an energy supplier, and I want our customers to use less energy. I want them to pay us less for their heating, lighting, and power each month. And I want us to help get the UK back on track to meet our climate targets, which demand a 78% reduction from 1990 levels by 2035.

“Greenwashing is a luxury no one can afford. By making this change we’ll save consumers money and reinvest in true green energy, and we hope others will follow our lead.”
OVO’s Path to Zero replaces 100% renewable energy tariff backed by Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) with;

  • A choice of one energy-saving product or service. Customers can pick from things like smart thermostats or a visit from an OVO Energy Expert – providing tailored advice to help make your home more efficient.
  • Track energy through the OVO app. Customers with a smart meter can see exactly where their energy’s going – from cooking to entertainment. And tells them the greenest time to use energy.
  • Get rewarded for using energy at greener times. Eligible customers with a smart meter can get cash credit for doing this, when they sign up to Power Move.
  • Plant 1 million trees each year, right here in the UK – with respected tree planting partners the Woodland Trust and The Conservation Volunteers.

Tom Andrews, senior consultant, Cornwall Insight said: “The potential for REGOs to increase renewable electricity generation has not been well understood by consumers. It was not their original purpose, and Cornwall Insight research has shown they have had little to no impact on growing green electricity production. At a potential cost of £1.4 billion to UK energy consumers, it’s important to understand the role of the REGO scheme in tracking green electricity from generators to consumers. Government subsidy schemes have supported the vast majority of renewable electricity generation, with the cost paid for through green levies on people’s energy bills. There is much discussion on the viable options for replacing REGOs, however, the very fact OVO are holding the conversation is a positive development for consumers who want to support the growth of renewable energy, as well as the UK’s journey to net zero.”