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Green Energy - Your Personal Impact


One of the most important factors influencing your personal impact on society and the environment is the right choice of energy source. Did you know that the energy sector is the largest emitter of CO2 emissions in Germany, accounting for over 80%? Most of these emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and gas to generate electricity and heat.

In a nutshell

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Individual impact

Impact is the influence we have on our society and our environment. A key term that can be interpreted in different contexts. For contextual categorization, we distinguish between the terms footprint, handprint, and climate shadow.

In general, the three terms distinguish between an ecological and social sphere, which, depending on the methodology, goes beyond the direct sphere of influence. At a central level, this means whether I as an individual endeavor to reduce my negative impact on my environment or whether I direct all (consumer) decisions and social efforts toward a systemic improvement.

Green electricity - truly sustainable?

A closer look is required when it comes to green electricity: as many green electricity tariffs only display a "green coating" through, for example, purchased certificates, the majority of green electricity purchases do not contribute to the energy transition at all. On the contrary, the supposed sale of green electricity can even lead to price increases and excessive margins for installations that have already been paid off. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), green electricity that does not meet the following criteria but claims to contribute to climate protection is "not only misleading, but also factually unfounded and therefore false".

Green electricity providers must comply with these criteria:

Difference between location-based and market-based life cycle assessment

The impact that your energy consumption has on the environment depends heavily on the type of accounting, i.e. how and where the greenhouse gas emissions are calculated. There are two basic approaches here: the location-based approach and the market-based approach.

The location-based approach to calculating emissions takes into account the type of electricity that actually comes out of your socket. This means that the regional electricity mix is standardized and generalized, which is calculated using the type and efficiency of all local energy systems in the region. With the location-based approach, it is therefore irrelevant from which supplier you obtain your electricity. The only exception is if you produce your own electricity and feed it directly into your own household, for example through photovoltaics.

In a qualified market-specific approach to balancing, the emissions caused by the production facilities of your chosen electricity provider are considered. The decisive factor here is the actual production method, without the purchase of additional guarantees of origin from external energy plants. Green electricity products can therefore only make an effective contribution to the energy transition if they meet the above criteria.

CO2 emissions: Green electricity vs. conventional electricity

To calculate the climate compatibility of the electricity you purchase, you can look at the "emission factor" or the "direct COÔéé emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity". The emissions per kWh from renewable energy sources are very different from fossil fuels.

This is shown by the latest figures from the Federal Environment Agency (including upstream chain):

For the conventional electricity mix in Germany in 2022, the UBA has calculated CO2 emissions of 498 grams per kilowatt hour (taking into account upstream chain emissions). This means that the amount of greenhouse gases produced by a household of four people per year can be as large as the weight of an average car! If we assume that 3,900 kWh of electricity are consumed per year, this corresponds to emissions of 1,942.2 kg of greenhouse gases.

In comparison, the emission factor of renewables is low, ranging between 55.7 g / kWh for photovoltaic systems and 2.7 g / kWh for hydroelectric systems. Conscious consumption with green electricity can therefore make a significant contribution to avoiding greenhouse gases!

Let's take a look at the development across Germany: if the proportion of an energy source with a high CO2 emission factor, such as lignite or hard coal, decreases in favor of an energy source with a lower CO2 emission factor, such as a renewable energy source, the emission factor of your electricity mix will also decrease. Major progress is already visible: according to the UBA, the promotion of renewable energies has almost halved average greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector since 1990!

How much CO2 emissions can I avoid by using truly green electricity?

By switching to genuine green electricity, you as an individual can save up to one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions per year and reduce your footprint by more than 90 percent! However, this only applies if the above quality criteria for genuine green electricity are met.

Green electricity can therefore have a positive impact on the environment if it is chosen correctly. BeChange helps you to compare and switch to genuine green electricity providers that are driving the energy transition forward.

Together we can bring about real change!

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