Spend your energy on going green ñ but only when you can afford to

Households are increasingly being urged to "go green", whether it is recycling their rubbish, buying organic food or switching to environmentally-friendly fabric cleaners.

The trend has picked up huge momentum in the last few years and consumer-related companies, including utility providers, have been quick to jump on the ethical bandwagon and promote their green credentials.

Energy provider E.ON has been promoting it s "on-going" commitment to renewable energy in recent months.

Andrew Barrow, a spokesman for E.ON said: "Certain customers will chose an energy provider based on whether they offer renewable energy and we are quite proud of our portfolio in this area."

But is there a danger that the green theme has been taken a step too far and that customers should now be asking themselves whether they are actually still getting value for money?

Earlier this year, E.ON increased the price of its electricity by 9.7 per cent and its gas by 15 per cent, blaming the rising wholesale costs of energy.

Price increases elsewhere look set to continue, with British Gas warning this week that bills would rise further this year.

The move comes despite Centrica, which owns British Gas, reporting £1.9bn of annual profits in February. The company said wholesale gas prices remain stubbornly high, and that its operating profits would be lower in the future.

Energy providers that invest in wind farms and wave power should be applauded for their commendable practices. But it is the price of energy which really matters to customers, particularly at a time when the credit crunch is taking hold and homeowners are faced with reining in their spending and keeping to a tight budget.

I’ve always said that you can only be green when you can afford to be as companies will often put a premium on their goods being less harmful to the environment or promoting certain social responsible values. And I remain convinced that being green is a luxury, rather than a financial priority, for most households today.

When a household begins to feel the pinch on its finances, those organic carrots may be the first to go – or that higher priced energy which comes from a renewable energy provider.

Centrica has confirmed that the number of new customers has fallen since it increased its prices in January.

Perhaps the answer lies in a green energy provider that offers the cheapest rates on the market – that’s where companies would make money.
Until then, make sure you are not paying more for your energy than you could be and switch to the cheapest deal.

Latest figures reveal the number of households that switched energy provider in the past six months to April this year is just 14pc for electricity and 13pc for gas.

Those who have never switched before and are sitting on an uncompetitive standard plan have the most to gain and should switch straight away.

By Myra Butterworth

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