First Utility’s unicorns aren’t fooling us

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 3rd February 2016

The internet loves unicorns. Who knows why – the logic of the internet is an elusive thing, but it does. Pooping into ice cream cones and what have you (oh go on then, it’s here):

Someone doing the branding for First Utility knows this, which is why there are unicorns on billboard posters across the tube right now. And inside the carriages and up the escalators. Making sure that brand association is firmly wedged in our brains, they are all over First Utility’s website too, and all over its social media.

Besides its love of mythical creatures, the independent energy provider, the biggest after the Big Six, has a lot to commend it. It offers cheaper tariffs than the Big Six, customers seem happy with the service (Which? gives it 63%, making it tenth overall), it genuinely encourages lower energy use (whereas the Big Six pretend to but don’t really) by offering smart meters to customers, and to top it off, it has Living Wage accreditation. Above all, it is breaking the stranglehold of the dominant providers effectively. Wowee. What a force for good, right? And they LOVE UNICORNS!! A sense of humour too!!!!

And yet, we don’t like it. Why? Well, all of the above is but a story as mythical as the new brand icon. OK, it might tick a lot of people’s boxes. But you see, while we hate to be pernickety, only 4.6 per cent of its electricity is renewable. That’s against a national average of 19.6 per cent. It has way more coal than the national average in its fuel mix, at 38.7 per cent compared with 26.7 per cent. And way more gas: 36.2 per cent compared with 29.7 per cent.

It is, in other words, a polluter, notching up the carbon dioxide parts per million, already at more than 400 ppm on average around the world – a dangerous level – and increasing deaths through respiratory illness and cancer.

Woah, we got quite heavy there, didn’t we? Well, that’s because all the unicorns in the world can’t magic away carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And at a time when solar is cheaper than ever, offshore wind farms are bobbing around the coast like gulls, onshore wind is cheaper than coal and gas, and public support for renewable energy is at 78 per cent (according to DECC’s public attitudes survey¬†published yesterday), you have to really ask First Utility, why don’t you use more renewable electricity?

Suppliers that have higher percentages of renewables in the mix can also be very competitive, without choking the planet for our heat and light. See our guide to cheaper, greener deals, here. And just do us a favour, and don’t pick these guys. Or if you do, whine and whinge and whinny at them about their appalling fuel mix until they get the message that their customers do care.

Because we’d rather see¬†this:

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Than these:

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…on the horizon, any day.