Offsite renewable electricity (GreenPower): the basics

No solar panels? No worries. You can still join the renewable energy revolution – with just a simple call to your electricity provider.

Rooftop solar isn’t the only way you can power your home or business with renewable electricity. A GreenPower electricity plan (known generically as “offsite renewable electricity”) is a simple alternative for those residents and businesses unable to install solar panels – and it’s a great supplementary option for rooftop-solar users, too.

What is GreenPower?

GreenPower is an accredited and audited government scheme that enables Australian households and businesses to support the generation of electricity from renewable sources. When you opt for a GreenPower electricity plan from your electricity provider, your money goes to getting more renewably-sourced energy into the electricity grid. Already, leading businesses operating in central Sydney, such as Atlassian and Starbucks, have switched to GreenPower plans as part of their commitment to the RE100 program (a global corporate initiative to accelerate the shift to renewable energy). Now, it’s time for us to join them.

Photo: Nyngan Solar Plant

Renting? Not a problem

“GreenPower is especially relevant for customers who want to access renewable electricity but are unable to install rooftop solar or other renewable energy on their premises,” says the chair of the National GreenPower Program Steering Group, Tim Stock.

For these residents and businesses, a GreenPower electricity plan is a simple way to make a difference in the fight against climate change. 

How does GreenPower work?

The Australian electricity grid on the east coast is one of the biggest in the world, spanning thousands of kilometers. Power stations send electricity into the grid and those electrons travel to wherever they are needed. As a result, the electricity that comes out of your power socket could have been generated anywhere from Queensland to Tasmania. But if the electricity gets mixed up in the grid, how can we tell the coal from the solar? 

In practical terms, adding GreenPower to your electricity account acts as a kind of receipt to help us tell the renewable generation from the fossil fuels. When wind and solar farms generate power, the government issues a certificate or "receipt" that verifies the clean power. When your provider sells you GreenPower, they are simply pledging to buy the equivalent amount of these receipts from certified renewable sources. The best way to support the building of more renewables, is to buy renewable electricity which sends a market signal. If you want to do one better, choose a provider that invests in building new renewables. The Green Electricity Guide makes it easy to see which companies are truly green.

“Most electricity retailers now offer a GreenPower option” Stock says. “This means there are no upfront costs and if you move to a different property you can get GreenPower right away.”

What are my GreenPower purchase options?

Although not all electricity retailers advertise GreenPower most offer it. You can find a full list here. If you’re happy with your current retailer, speak to them to find out whether they offer GreenPower.

If you’d like to shop around and care about cost the most, check out the Australian government’s Energy Made Easy comparison tool (make sure to choose a GreenPower option). If you care about the overall environmental performance, ethics and policies of a company the most, we recommend the Green Electricity Guide.

How much does GreenPower cost?

The cost of GreenPower varies from retailer to retailer, but in most cases you will end up paying a bit more. But shop around.  You may find that by choosing a new electricity retailer, or negotiating with your current provider, you can go renewable and save money. Use our handy guide to negotiate the best deal. 

Why is signing up for GreenPower important?

  • GreenPower is an effective way for people and businesses to become more environmentally friendly.

  • Signing up for GreenPower sends a signal to the energy market (and the Australian federal government) that consumers want to use green electricity. Not only are you using renewable electricity, but you’re telling the market to add more energy from renewable sources into the electricity grid to cover your use.

  • “Of the over 180 GreenPower-accredited generators around Australia, there are 50 located in regional NSW,” Stock says. “When a customer purchases GreenPower, they’re supporting the development and ongoing operation of renewable energy generators. This brings direct investment into regional communities through construction and management jobs.”  

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