Renewable energy: 10 terms you need to know

Renewable energy: 10 terms you need to know

By: Shamiso Chirimuuta

19 Mar 2020

The world is changing rapidly. Through government initiatives, technological developments and collaboration across industries, we’re moving towards a better, lower carbon future.

These technological breakthroughs bring new ideas and terminology - and with change coming so quickly, it can be difficult to keep up. We all want a lower carbon future, but it’s hard to engage with the topic if you’re not familiar with the terminology. So, we’re here to help.

We’ve compiled a list of simple definitions to 10 complex terms relating to renewable energy. Because everybody deserves to join the conversation.

Carbon emissions

This is simply the addition of carbon dioxide (CO₂) into the earth’s atmosphere. CO₂ is released when coal, oil or gas is burned to produce energy, and is a greenhouse gas that contributes to raising the temperature of the earth.

Carbon neutral / Carbon offsetting

All companies, services, products and individuals will inevitably create carbon emissions, whether that’s through air travel or heating in an office. The term Carbon neutral refers to the balancing out of these carbon emissions. Emissions can be balanced out by funding the equivalent amount of carbon removal through renewable energy projects and energy efficiency initiatives. This activity is also known as carbon offsetting.


Decarbonisation is the transition from greenhouse gasses to low emission forms of energy. In other words, it’s the move towards generating energy from sources that don't release carbon emissions. For example, generating electricity by harnessing wind power instead of burning coal, or powering cars with renewable electricity, rather than petrol or diesel.

Lifecycle emissions

Sometimes known as Lifecycle Analysis or a fuel cycle, the lifecycle emissions refers to the greenhouse gas impact that the overall emissions of a certain type of fuel has. This includes the production and distribution of the energy, so even a renewable energy source such as wind or solar has the potential to produce lifecycle emissions.

Net-zero emissions

Net zero emissions means that all unnatural greenhouse gasses are removed from the atmosphere, reducing the earth’s net balance to zero and stabilising global temperatures.

Green energy

Green energy is gas and electricity that is not generated by fossil fuels that release carbon emissions, but instead comes from renewable, low emission sources like wind, solar and biomass. This energy may be produced by utility companies themselves, or purchased by companies through REGOs.

Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs)

These are certificates that prove the authenticity of electricity produced from renewable sources. One REGO certificate is issued for every megawatt hour (MWh) of energy produced from renewable generators. Household energy providers are able to purchase REGO certificates to match the amount of electricity used by customers. This contributes to the addition of renewable electricity into the National Grid.

Fuel Mix

This term refers to the make up of electricity offered by energy suppliers. It describes the origin of all their electricity; usually in percentages. A supplier’s fuel mix may be 100% renewable or ‘green’, or it can be made up of electricity generated from many sources, such as coal and natural gas.

Smart meter

A smart meter is a device that sends automatic meter readings to your energy supplier, removing uncertainty about your energy usage. You can monitor your usage online, and use this information to reduce consumption and save money.

Smart thermostat

While a smart meter helps you monitor your energy usage and send accurate readings, smart thermostats help you manage the temperature of your home. The device stays within your home, with a display screen for you to view and set the temperature. Keeping control of the temperature in your home will help you reduce waste.