How you get your Electicity

Ok, so you’ve signed up to a new energy supplier (let us call it Pyramidical Energy) and you have been promised that all the electricity you receive will be from Green sources.

You have been sold a lie. No electricity retailer in the UK can deliver on that promise, and I’m going to explain exactly why.

I’m not going to go into the history of power generation etc in the UK prior to the ’90s privatisation, but just look at how it works now.

Starting at the start, which is usually a good idea, and working through to the end.

The electricity supply process can split into four parts:

  1. Generation
  2. Transmission
  3. Distribution
  4. Consumption
  5. Your electricity “supplier”

So, considering each in turn…

1. Generation

This is the stage at which the electricity is generated. There are many methods: fossil fuel burning, solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, and two oddities: import and storage. Imported electricity is that which we buy from The Netherlands and France, and is delivered via undersea cables. Storage refers to electricity which has already been generated, but stored in batteries.

The figures for 2020 put the percentages for each as these:

  • Natural gas burners: 34.5%
  • Wind farms: 24.8%
  • Nuclear: 17.2%
  • Imports: 8.4%
  • Biomass burners: 6.5%
  • Solar: 4.4%
  • Hydro: 1.6%
  • Coal: 1.6%
  • Storage: 0.5%

Now it doesn’t take a genius to see that 42.6% of the electricity generated comes from burning stuff. And burning stuff isn’t green!

2. Transmission

This is the part that takes the generated power from whatever source and spreads it about the country. It is called the National Grid, and is operated by the conveniently named National Grid plc.

Once electricity enters the grid, there is no way to tell how it was generated. Because electricity is electricity. Its not like internet traffic, with source and destination headers, it is just electrons. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to con you,

Don’t blame National Grid for the lies, it isn’t them doing it. Their job is just to make sure that the power gets from the generating stations down to the local sub-stations, where we encounter…

3. Distribution

From the local substation to the meter at your property, the cabling is dealt with by a DNO. A Distribution Network Operator or District Network Operator. Again, these are not part of the scam. Their job is to just make sure that the power gets to your meter.

If your lights are on, then they are quietly doing their job.

If every electrical appliance in the house suddenly catches fire, then they’ve accidentally put 415VAC up the Neutral line, which happened once in Kent.

4. Consumption

This is you. This is every TV, light, heater, kettle and toaster you have plugged in. Also your Smart Meter, as that is not actually part of your meter.

This is where the electricity ends up (well, actually, it isn’t, as it just runs round the wires and heads straight back to Ground). 

Hang on, you may think,  I’m not paying a power station, or the National Grid, or a DNO for my electrickery! No, you are paying a broker. And that is where the massive fraud comes in.

5. Your electricity “supplier”

You are actually paying a retailer, who buys Units of electricity from the Generators, pays fees to the Grid and DNOs, and then slaps a fee on top before billing you.  These Brokers have no control over where the electricity comes from. Such a idea would be impossible. They may claim what they like, but that is not how science works.

The may say they exclusively buy Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), but, and I quote, “a market-based instrument and an effective way to increase the market demand for renewable energy” [see here]. Okay, so they buy a bit of info that says there has been some Carbon Offset, or some other flim-flam.

This does not change the fact that there is no way to stop the “bad” electricity getting into your toaster and making your ethically produced full-grain fair-trade toast the product of burning Russian sourced wood pellets..









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