Operator, give me the dirtiest electricity you’ve got
I recently rang my electricity company to discuss GreenPower. I knew I wanted 100% GreenPower but I didn’t want it now. I wanted it in January 2010. Right now, I want to do my bit to keep the government’s 2009 GreenPower baseline as low as possible – so my efforts towards emissions reductions really count.
‘Give me the dirtiest coal electricity you have,’ I said to the operator.
I explained that under the government’s proposed emissions trading scheme, me paying extra for GreenPower wouldn’t actually reduce Australia’s carbon emissions – beyond what would happen if I didn’t take any action at all.
But it would from 2010 - so I didn’t want to buy it until then.
The operator replied tersely, ‘Victoria, I can guarantee that our GreenPower is fully accredited and it does reduce Australia’s carbon emissions.’
The call left me with 100% dirty electricity and lingering questions over why GreenPower energy retailers were still guaranteeing emissions reductions even when they weren’t able to demonstrate it.
We all cheered when Kevin Rudd committed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on 3rd December 2007, but implications of ratification means that any current action taken voluntarily by consumers or business to reduce carbon emissions - like purchasing GreenPower - is in vain.
Last year the ACCC released new guidelines - Carbon Claims and the Trade Practices Act – in response to a proliferation of misleading carbon claims. The guidelines state that misleading carbon claim occurs when an energy retailer can not demonstrate that the emissions reduction is ‘additional’ to what would normally happen, or ‘business-as-usual’.
By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, the government guaranteed Australia would achieve a 108% emissions reduction target on 1990 levels by 2012. If we fail to meet this target domestically, the government will purchase additional credits internationally. Either way – we will achieve 108%. This essentially means that all present voluntary action, like GreenPower, is accounted for as ‘business-as-usual’.
The government has tried to overcome this by making GreenPower additional to emission reduction targets under the CPRS using 2009 GreenPower sales as the baseline. But what about the 984,024 GreenPower customers that already pay a premium for GreenPower, without receiving any personal benefit other than knowing they are supporting renewable energy and thinking that they are reducing Australia’s greenhouse emissions?
Since we committed to ratifying the protocol over 18 months ago, GreenPower, a government-accredited program guaranteeing renewable energy, has done remarkably well. It has increased its customer base by 243,144 customers, or a third – not bad for tough times. But are GreenPower retailers really being honest with their customers?
I suspect the government-run GreenPower has known about this misleading carbon claim issue for a while but only this week have they contacted the retailers of GreenPower products to advise of a new communications strategy, the language of which is designed to keep you guessing:
The tag line:
GreenPower. A simple switch for you, significant results for our environment.
Has been replaced with:
GreenPower. A simple switch for you, renewable energy for our future.
You will continue to support renewable energy, but you will no longer achieve positive changes for the environment…
The tag line:
GreenPower. You have the power to make a real difference.
Has been replaced with:
GreenPower. You have the power to choose.
You will no longer make a difference, but you will have a choice to not make a difference…
And energy retailers have been struggling to get their marketing pitch right. Many GreenPower retailers are misleading hundreds of thousands of households and that’s not okay, so far as CHOICE is concerned.
Of course all this tricky marketing-speak would be irrelevant if the federal government were to remove its ridiculous 2009 baseline and made sure that every current and future GreenPower purchase is additional to Australia’s mandatory emissions reduction target – which is exactly what nearly a million households want when they choose GreenPower.
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