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Generating or buying green energy

You can produce your own energy in a greener, more sustainable way by using natural resources like the sun, wind or water. This is known as microgeneration. You can also access low carbon and renewable energy by buying greener electricity.

What is microgeneration?

Microgeneration uses low carbon energy technologies, like solar panels or wind turbines, to create electricity or heat in homes, businesses or community buildings. This electricity or heat is described as low, or zero, carbon energy, because it creates a low amount of carbon emissions (or none at all) when it's produced.

The benefits of microgeneration

Microgeneration can reduce the use of fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment. It can also save you money on your fuel bills in two ways:

  1. producing your own energy from renewable sources could be cheaper than buying energy from energy companies
  2. if you generate more electricity than you use, you can sell it to energy companies, using Feed-in Tariffs (FITs)

The FITs scheme guarantees a minimum payment for all electricity you generate and a separate payment for the electricity you export to the national grid. This is in addition to the bill savings you make by using the electricity you generate. For more information on FITs, see the information on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.

If you're considering using microgeneration, remember that upfront costs can be high and payback times can be long. Some technologies might cost you more to install than you will save afterwards in the form of reduced energy bills. However, microgeneration can increase your property value, and you may want to weigh up the financial costs with how much it will benefit the environment.

Choosing a technology that's right for you

Different microgeneration technologies are more suited to certain types of homes than others. For example:

  • to generate energy successfully from a wind turbine, you need to live in an area that has enough wind
  • to install solar panels, you need a roof or wall that faces within 90 degrees of south

The Energy Saving Trust has a tool that helps you work out what microgeneration technologies might be best suited to your home.

The different types of microgeneration technologies

For more detailed information on specific microgeneration technologies, use the links below.

Buying green electricity

According to the Energy Saving Trust, just five per cent of the UK's electricity comes from renewable (or 'green') sources. This is predicted to grow over the coming years.

Many companies offer to supply ‘green’ electricity. Packages vary, so check exactly what you are buying, but they generally fall into two categories:

  • a green tariff – where a supplier will source a certain amount of electricity for you from renewable or low carbon sources, like a wind farm
  • a green fund – where a supplier will pay money on your behalf to environmental projects or renewable and low carbon energy developments

The law already requires electricity suppliers to produce a certain amount of their electricity from renewable sources. When you switch to a green tariff, check whether your supplier will generate renewable energy over and above the legal minimum. Only then will your choice lead to an increase in the amount of renewable electricity produced in the UK. 

  • Source Direct Gov
  • Last Updated: 06 Jan 2012