How to charge your Electric Car from renewable energy at home using GreenPower

One of the motivations of for electric vehicle owners is reducing the emissions they produce in their day to day life.

Apart from reducing pollution they can also be easier to maintain and are cheaper to run than a comparable car using petrol – but the key benefit is bigger picture, with a lower carbon footprint than fossil-fueled vehicles of a similar type and size.

There are many ways that electricity is generated, and your electric car will take electricity from any power source. With that said, the commitment needed from electric car owners to ensure a cleaner environment unfortunately doesn’t end once they drive the car home – choosing a green power source is also important.

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What renewable options are available to charge my electric vehicle?

When it comes to sourcing electricity there are two key ways to reduce emissions, help the environment and reduce your running costs. – GreenPower or solar power.

WindMill

It’s the former I will be concentrating on today, where we’ll look at the world of GreenPower; that is, electricity generated without the use of fossil fuels.

We’ll touch on using solar to run your EV later in the article, and explore it more fully in a post of its own very soon.

What is GreenPower?

When energy companies refer to GreenPower they are talking about power sourced from generators that do not use fossil fuels to generate that energy.

It’s a voluntary government accredited scheme specific to Australia, where energy providers can purchase renewable energy at the request of a household or business – for a fee.

Available in all states, it uses only renewables that are issued from generators built after 1997. This is deliberately done to ensure the scheme also encourages new infrastructure in the renewable energy sector. It also excludes significant providers such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro Power station, which already provides Australia with about 5-6 percent of its renewable energy.

Powerplant

(source: Snow Mountains Hydro Discovery Centre)

GreenPower claims to independently audit the renewable energy sector providers to ensure that green generation sources are not using fossil fuels. They also refuse power from sources such as biomass that uses native rainforests, or hydro power where significant river diversions have taken place to build them.

All up, if you don’t generate your own renewable energy then buying green power is about the only way to be sure that the electricity you’re using – whether that’s at home or in your electric car – is as low emission as possible.

How does buying green power work?

As an electricity customer, you can purchase 10% or more of your power as GreenPower through your energy provider.

The provider then buys what are called Large Generation Certificates (LGC’s) from the Clean Energy Regulator that then guarantees the amount of energy stated on the LGC is generated only from accredited GreenPower. 1 LGC is equal to 1 MWh electricity, generated and exported to the grid.

Both the retailer and the Regulator are audited annually by the National Greenpower Steering Group (NGSG) to make sure there is no funny business going on, with the NGSG made up of state government representatives who also oversee the GreenPower website, and deal with renewable legislation and accreditation of compliance to program rules.

If that chunk of government-ese is sending you into a coma, there’s a nifty little infographic here, and below, that can explain it all with pretty pictures and flashing lights.

EV GreenPower

So yes, that does mean your green power is getting all mixed up with dirty old fossil fuel power. Due to the physics of electricity, the exact electrons created by renewable energy producers go into the national grid and as a consumer of power from the grid, you can’t buy that exact same GreenPower you may think you’ve paid for.

For some that might be disempowering, but GreenPower does seem to be a well regulated scheme. The key thing to understand is the economics behind it – by buying GreenPower, consumers are sending a signal of demand to utility providers that they are willing and keen to buy renewable energy, and this incentivises providers to invest in the production of renewable energy.

Overall, it means that more power is being made using less fossil fuel, which is a good thing, whether that power is running your car, fridge, or a/c.

However, if you feel the need to be more in control of exactly how your power is generated and who gets to use it, and you have the willingness and capacity to invest in your home, then I’d say home solar is for you. More on that later.

Who are the various retailers that offer GreenPower?

There are a wide range of retailers who offer the GreenPower service, with a few very well-known names sprinkled in amongst the smaller companies. Most people have heard of Origin Energy, Energy Australia, Powershop or AGL, for example.

You can use the GreenPower Provider Finder to search for one in your state or, if you’d like something more objective and transparent, try the breakdown offered here at The Green Electricity Guide.

How much more expensive is GreenPower?

GreenPower almost always appears as a surcharge on your base rate and should be listed on the Energy Price Fact Sheet all retailers are supposed to offer, or otherwise in the retailers written summary of your offer.

Below is a base rate comparison using the information in the offer PDF’s which are available on each providers website. I’ve chosen to compare AGL, Energy Australia and Powershop.

Now, providers are prone to using overly complicated breakdowns of their rates, so to be able to compare like with like I’ve had to use their Peak rates and their Balance of Usage option. This is sometimes also referred to as the ‘Anytime’ option. So the below is not taking into account any variables such as are available on their plans.

ProviderGreenPower %Rate typeCost c/kwH inc
GST
AGL100Peak/Anytime42.90
Energy Australia100Peak/Anytime45.45
Powershop100Peak/Anytime36.67

It’s much easier though, to find plan pricing comparisons and see how opting for GreenPower will affect your bottom line in real life. So let’s do a few back-of-the-envelope estimates and see how it changes the cost of your electricity.

Because I’m in Victoria, I’ve used the Victorian Energy Compare website to look at the difference in costs. If you’re in another state try this link and follow the prompts for your area.

These are for the outer east of Melbourne. If you live in a different area your rates will vary, but as a guide it’s useful.

In my comparison I’ve made some assumptions. The below figures are for a medium sized (8 room) house with 4 people. Gas heating and hot water, electricity for air con and medium level use of things such as dryers and fridges. No pools, no solar panels, and the pricing is for electricity only.

NB: If you’re leery of taking your pricing comparisons directly from the Government because of the possible conflict of interest (they are also the regulators of GreenPower) then you can try Canstar’s guide.

Energy Plan Comparison

(Source: Canstar Compare Plans)

This is what the final list of offerings looks like with the above criteria applied and the GreenPower box checked. See the little green flower in the Features column? That means it is an option, and on the site itself you can hover over it to see what level of GreenPower is offered.

(Source: Victorian Energy Compare)

Note: The only options with 100% Greenpower are the two I’ve highlighted at the bottom, the rest are all somewhere between 10-20%.

Now, let’s look at the 0% Greenpower options:

(Source: Victorian Energy Compare)

How does that work out overall?

ProviderPower Type% GreenPowerCost p/yearIncrease
GlobirdElectricity only0%$1200
AGLElectricity only10%$143020%
AGLElectricity only20%$147023%
Energy AustraliaElectricity only100%$159032%

So by that metric, 100% GreenPower looks like a great deal compared to 10-20% GreenPower.

On the other hand, a 30% hike in your ‘normal’ electricity bills is fairly hefty – but is the cost of reducing the effective emissions from your electricity usage to 0.

What resources are there online to find out more about GreenPower and retailers that offer it?

GreenPower as a government run entity seems to be going to great pains to be as transparent in its dealings as possible. You can access links on their website that tell you where the GreenPower generators are, help finding a provider who will offer GreenPower options in your state, as well as lists of audit data and quarterly results.

However, I still believe you’ll need to do your own homework to be satisfied that you’re making the best decision, because when it comes to money and/or morality, people will always have an axe to grind. No one source is going to be completely objective.

To get started try the following sites:

After doing all your sums and researching how much of a difference switching to GreenPower will make to both the environment and your bottom line you may decide it’s not for you.

If that’s the case then your only real other option at this point in time is to move to your own solar power.

Summing up – Greenpower for your electric car, or not?

The choice of whether to purchase GreenPower or not is a very personal one, based on your own personal values on energy consumption. The outcome at home – turning the lights on, or powering your electric car, is the same whether you purchase GreenPower or not.

Over the long-term your purchase decision will help accelerate the transition to renewables from our utility providers by demonstrating there is demand from consumers for renewable energy. Whether you can afford the extra cost is totally down to you.

It may help to remember that although GreenPower is costing you more, running your EV is so much cheaper than paying for petrol that you’ll be out in front no matter what you do.

Meanwhile, your choice is making a meaningful impact in the method of production of your electricity, helping you live a life with a lower carbon-footprint.

*Feature image courtesy of Ed Dunens, Flickr

Rene Shoolman is an avid ultra-runner who can also be found over on her blog Ultra Lazy Ultra Runner. She is passionate about anything that will keep the outdoors a little bit cleaner and healthier (mainly so she can run in it). Rene works in the engineering industry by day, writes by night and runs in whatever time is leftover.

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