Big church Switch

About renewable energy

What is renewable energy?

Electricity can be generated from natural and renewable energy sources that have less of an impact on the environment than fossil fuels. Examples of renewable energy sources include: solar, wind, and waterflow (hydroelectricity). We call these "renewable energy" sources because, unlike fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, they will not run out.

The burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity has been one of the UK’s largest contributors to the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which leads to climate change. The emission of carbon dioxide is significantly reduced by generating electricity from renewable sources, rather than from fossil fuels; therefore, switching to renewable sources is crucial to efforts to limit climate change.

Energy suppliers that provide electricity from renewable sources guarantee that, over the period of a year, every unit of electricity their customers use is matched by a unit being put into the National Grid from wind and solar farms and other renewable generators.

Why should we use renewable energy?

Using renewable energy enables you to reduce the carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere because of the energy you use, which is known as your carbon footprint. This helps to reduce climate change.

By using renewable energy sources like solar energy, we also reduce our dependence on fossil fuel gas and oil reserves, which are becoming more expensive and difficult to find. It also reduces our dependence on imported fossil fuels, improving our energy security.

The UK is cleaning up its act, with 24% of our electricity generated from renewable sources in 2016. Switching means money we all spend on our electricity bills turns into investment in generating more clean power speeding up the change.

Where will my renewable energy come from?

Depending on which supplier you switch with this will vary. Each supplier has details of their fuel mix and generation sources on their own website.

Is renewable energy more expensive than standard energy?

The cost of generating electricity from renewable sources in the UK can be more expensive than generating energy through fossil fuels and nuclear sources; although wind power is now one of the cheapest forms of energy available, with new solar power also being cheaper than coal and nuclear. The difference in generation costs is getting smaller all the time.

Some green energy plans do cost a little more - the money is often used to fund renewable energy production or environmental projects.

We recognise that some churches are not currently getting the best energy prices available and so they may still save money against their existing tariff when switching.

Switching to an energy supplier that sources 100% renewable electricity may not be the cheapest electricity available, but it is better for the environment. We encourage churches to consider both the cost to their finances and the cost to the environment when choosing their energy supplier, as part of their wider stewardship of resources.

Renewable energy and the church

Why should my church switch to renewable energy?

By switching as part of this campaign you can practically demonstrate your care for creation.

You will also help show demand for renewable energy and show our governments and business leaders one way we can shift finance into clean, renewable energy that can help all God’s people to flourish.

As more churches join the campaign, together we will put greater pressure on governments and businesses to follow suit by investing in renewables.

Reducing investment in fossil fuels will lower carbon emissions and help to limit climate change which is already affecting the poorest communities around the world. By increasing investment in renewables we can improve the technology and infrastructure so that all communities across the world can utilise energy that is safe, clean and reliable.

Why is the Church getting involved in this kind of campaign?

Our vision is a world where everyone can live life in all its fullness, and where nobody is hungry, thirsty or gets left behind. This sounds ambitious, but we believe it’s possible. As Christians we are called to live in a way that brings about God’s kingdom - giving life, hope, and restoration to our earth and its people. When we use our time and money to care for creation, we join in with God’s work of renewing the earth, and stand alongside the world’s poorest people who are most affected by climate change. One way we can do this is to take small positive steps in our homes, churches, and communities - and like mustard seeds, these actions will multiply for real impact.

“Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life- and place it before God as an offering.” Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message)

How much of a difference does this make to our church’s carbon footprint?

This campaign is to show demand for electricity generated from renewable sources and to show our government and business leaders that we are prepared to lead in shifting finance out of fossil fuels and into clean, renewable energy that can help all God’s people to flourish.

Your church’s carbon footprint will be dependent on your current supplier and energy usage; and the supplier you switch to. There are a great number of ways your church can reduce its carbon footprint; see A Rocha’s Eco Church or CAFOD's LiveSimply award or the Eco-Congregation programme in Scotland and Ireland.

My church is already with a renewable energy supplier - what else can I do to help?

Spread the word to other churches in your area; and share details of the Big Church Switch via Twitter or Facebook.

You can talk to your local politician; invite them to come to your church to hear about why you have switched and ask them what they are doing about climate change. By showing politicians the way forward, rather than just telling them, we have real strength in making a shift towards renewable energy.

There’s A Rocha’s Eco Church scheme or CAFOD's LiveSimply award or the Eco-Congregation programme in Scotland and Ireland to get involved in.

How do I persuade my church?

We know every church works differently but ultimately you need to find the right people and convince them to make this happen. It might be your church leadership team, the church treasurer, or someone influential in your church’s committee.

It’s always helpful to find a few allies first rather than acting as a lone voice. You could dedicate a service to climate change or try to get an expert or person from an affected community to come and talk about climate change as a way of growing concern for the issue inside your church.

We switched to a renewable energy supplier years ago, are you saying I should now choose a different provider?

Not at all! If you’ve switched to a 100% renewable electricity provider already that’s great. However, if you are considering switching to a different provider you are also very welcome to use the Big Church Switch and see if you can get a better deal. You aren’t making a commitment until you see the final deal, so you have nothing to lose.

I’m not in a position to switch - what else can I do to help?

A Rocha’s Eco Church or CAFOD's LiveSimply award or the Eco-Congregation programme in Scotland and Ireland, can help your church work towards reducing its carbon footprint.

Why is the church promoting this now - it’s the UK government who are failing to support renewables, shouldn’t we target them instead?

Following the historic UN climate deal in Paris in December 2015, the shift towards renewable energy has well and truly begun. We agree that we need to keep up the pressure on our governments and this campaign is one powerful way of doing so.

As voters and consumers we can show by our actions that there is a growing mandate for our governments to better support renewable energy generation. We’ll be asking each switcher to make these points to their MP and we’ll be talking to governments about it as well. If you’ve never done this before we can support you too.

Given the power of business to drive change, we hope this campaign will go some way towards giving investors the confidence to put money into new clean energy infrastructure to which will help support and hasten the speed of this transition.

We’re a Catholic parish and we’d like to take part in the Big Church Switch, how can we get involved?

Most Catholic parishes get their electricity through a diocesan-level agreement, rather than by choosing their supplier at a parish level. Nineteen Catholic dioceses get their electricity on an 100% renewable tariff already, and the others are working towards this as contracts come up for renewal. This means, if you are a Catholic parish, school or religious order, you do not need to register to switch suppliers on this site. Find out more about what the Catholic Church is doing.

The Big Church Switch

Who are the Big Church Switch?

Led by Christian Aid, Tearfund and The Church of England, the Big Church Switch is an initiative to create a movement of Christians switching their homes and church buildings to 100% renewable electricity.

Christian Aid, Tearfund and The Church of England are partnering with a range of other organisations and denominations on the Big Church Switch to get this message out far and wide.

If you are interested in switching to clean energy please go to the website homepage to see which energy suppliers meet the Big Church Switch criteria or get contact details for church procurement experts 2buy2.

If I decide to switch, what do I do with my current energy supplier?

You will need to provide notice of your wish to terminate to your current supplier. Most suppliers will require at least one month’s notice (some suppliers require up to three months) so it is best to confirm this with them.

How do you decide which renewable energy suppliers to feature?

The Big Church Switch has specific criteria which energy suppliers must meet for their electricity tariffs to be featured on the Big Church Switch website.

The energy suppliers that are featured are all ones which will give an electricity tariff linked to 100% UK-generated renewable electricity with no nuclear; and who source 100% of their total electricity from 100% renewable sources. This ensures that an increase in demand from consumers will lead to increased renewable generation in the long term, rather than a ‘green tariff’ offered by a supplier that largely sources its energy from fossil fuels, which perpetuates the problem.

Do the partners get any money from us switching?

Christian Aid, Tearfund and The Church of England do not benefit financially from churches, or individuals, switching through the Big Church Switch website. If you switch with energy brokers 2buy2, they’ll take a fixed commission from the relevant energy supplier for each meter that switches, to cover the cost of facilitating each switch and supporting churches through the process.

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