Big church Switch

About renewable energy

What is renewable energy?

Green electricity is generated from natural and renewable energy sources that have less of an impact on the environment than fossil fuels. Examples of renewable energy include: solar energy, wind energy, and water power (hydroelectricity).

We call these energy sources types of "renewable energy" because, unlike fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, they will not run out.

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 19% of our electricity being renewable in 2014. Switching means money we all spend on our electricity bills turns into investment in generating more clean power speeding up the change. Over 100,000 people have made the switch in the last two years.

Do renewable energy plans cost more?

Some green energy plans do cost a little more - the money is often used to fund renewable energy production or environmental projects. By uniting together under the Big Church Switch and buying as a group our hope is to remove any cost barrier in switching to renewables.

Group buying means we can show energy companies that there is a huge number of people interested in switching and encourages them to offer cheaper tariffs than usual in order to secure that custom.

By bringing the market to the energy suppliers they save money they would spend on marketing and can pass that through cheaper tariffs.

Where will my renewable energy come from?

Depending on which supplier you switch with this will vary. When we secure the best offer from energy suppliers we’ll make details available about how and where their renewable energy supplies are sourced.

Is this the cheapest 100% renewable rate available?

We expect to run a number of group buying deals during the year for both churches and homes to switch to 100% renewable electricity. With each we will score tariffs based on cost, sustainability criteria and customer service. We expect that the winning tariff for each deal will usually be the cheapest and a better rate than on the open market.

Is renewable energy more expensive than standard energy?

The cost of generating electricity from renewable sources in the UK is more expensive than generating energy through fossil fuels and nuclear sources. Bringing churches together through the Big Church Switch will enable us to minimise the price difference.

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

Switching to a renewable energy supplier may not be the cheapest energy available but it is better for the environment. We encourage churches to consider both the cost to their finances and the cost on 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 renewable energy and show to 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 and Live Simply programmes for more details.

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

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 the Eco Church and Live Simply award schemes to work towards too!

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 join 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?

The Eco Church initiative and Live Simply programme are great award schemes that 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, 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.

Does the Big Church Switch receive any income from churches switching to renewable energy?

The Lead Agencies, Christian Aid and Tearfund do not receive any income as a result of Churches or individuals switching through the Big Church Switch.

2buy2 and Parish Buying will receive a small fee to cover the costs of administering the switch, supporting churches through the switching process and providing on going customer service support.

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. Ten 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 process

If our church registers their interest are we tied in to switching?

No, by registering your interest along with thousands of others, we have the opportunity to use this buying power when going to the supplier and negotiating the best deal for you. Once you receive your energy quote you can decide whether or not to go ahead with the switch.

Who are the Big Church Switch?

Led by Christian Aid and Tearfund, 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 and Tearfund 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, you are of course free to choose which company you switch to! However in order to help supporters access competitive tariffs and to ensure the process is as smooth as possible, the Big Church Switch are working with church energy experts 2buy2. There is a lot of help and support available.

When you register your details 2buy2 will follow up with you to give you the information you need. There is no obligation to switch at any time.

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

For churches, you will need to terminate your contract at least one month in advance (some suppliers require up to three months). We can supply you with a termination letter template to use and the 2buy2 customer service team will be available to answer any questions about the process.

For homes, if you're within 49 days of the end of your fixed term contract with exit fees you can switch without having to pay any exit fees. If before then, you may incur exit fees (usually about £30 per fuel) which you should check with your supplier. It may still be worth switching given how cheap our deal is.

How do you decide which renewable energy tariffs to recommend?

Big Church Switch have agreed criteria for the energy tariffs and energy suppliers that we are happy to point individuals and churches towards.

The energy companies that we recommend are all ones which will give a 100% renewable electricity tariff, and who source the majority of their total energy supply (over 80%) from renewables. 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 company that largely sources its energy from fossil fuels, which perpetuates the problem. A green tariff like this doesn’t require generating any extra clean energy from renewable sources. We also rate companies based on their levels of customer service and the amount of investment they make in renewable generation.

There is a fair and competitive process in order to select the company that can offer the best deal to our supporters looking to switch their church or their home. Both The Big Deal and 2buy2 buying groups put the energy companies that meet our criteria through a competitive process in order to select the best tariff. This means that every renewable energy company that offers a 100% tariff will have had the opportunity to be selected as the company that we will offer the current deal through.

Do the partners get any money from us switching?

Christian Aid and Tearfund do not benefit financially from homes or churches switching to clean electricity through the Big Church Switch initiative. 2buy2 will take commission for each home or church that switches to cover the cost of facilitating each deal and supporting customers through the process.

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