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EKOenergy (the ecolabel for energy) launches in the UK

Posted by Gabby Mallett on 1 October 2019 at 3:17 pm

EKOenergy is a non-profit ecolabel for energy, working to change how we produce and consume energy. In 2013, the initiative was set up with the backing of 45 environmental NGOs in the UK and Europe to provide an easily identifiable mark of quality for energy products. The ecolabel has gained a lot of traction over the past few years and is now sold in over 40 countries all around the world, with some major companies like SAP, VMware and TetraPak using it.

EKOenergy maintains strict sustainability criteria that power plants must meet in order for their electricity and gas to be ecolabelled. These criteria go further than just requiring energy to be 100% renewable. For example, they stipulate that hydropower dams should safeguard fish migration and maintain minimum water levels in rivers, so minimising the damaging effects of hydropower on river ecosystems.

With energy retailers often getting tied up with definitions of “greenness”, “cleanness” etc. there has traditionally been much focus on carbon offset tariffs in the UK, as this allows companies to claim “net zero carbon emissions”. The EKOenergy sustainability criteria, however, tries to do something different by addressing the underlying structure of the energy market itself. By only ecolabelling energy from power plants that meet their strict environmental criteria, EKOenergy creates market demand specifically for power plants that operate in a sustainable manner.

For the first time, energy supported by the EKOenergy ecolabel is available in the UK with the launch of Green Energy UK’s energy tariff offering both electricity and gas backed by EKOenergy. This launch is a huge development for those wanting to support power plants operating in a highly sustainable manner and hopefully the beginning of a shift in the UK energy market.

In addition, for every megawatt hour of ecolabelled energy sold, energy companies must give 10 euro cents to the EKOenergy Climate Fund which finances solar energy projects in developing countries, aiming to alleviate energy poverty. When we consider that the average household uses around 4 megawatt hours of energy per year, this sounds like a very small amount. However, when aggregated over the 2 terawatt hours of ecolabelled energy sold per year, these contributions add up. Over the past 5 years, EKOenergy has raised over €800,000 for their Climate Fund, allowing 39 projects to be financed. 

One recently completed project took place between 2016 and 2018 in Nicaragua in which the setup of a revolving loans fund allowed small coffee producers, who are part of a local cooperative, purchase solar panels. As the producers pay back their loan, the money goes back into the fund, allowing other producers to take out similar loans. Another project, in 2018, saw the provision of solar panels for 9 health clinics supporting refugee camps along the conflict prone Myanmar-Thailand border.

EKOenergy is now available to all households and companies in the UK who want to help support projects like this and buy highly sustainable energy. Companies that use EKOenergy labelled energy have the right to use the ecolabel on their packaging, so look out for the ecolabel in shops near you!

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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