“Renewable energy” is taken to mean energy from sources that are non-polluting, sustainable or carbon neutral by 43 per cent of respondents to a recent survey.

The poll of more than 2,000 UK energy customers also found 87 per cent would like energy suppliers to specify the origins of their renewable energy.

Chris Bowden, founder of Squeaky Energy, which commissioned the research, said consumers are being “hoodwinked” into buying energy they think is non-polluting.

Only 34 per cent of respondents knew renewable energy includes biomass, while 85 per cent believed renewable to be sourced from solar and wind power, and 75 per cent thought that also included hydro power.

When offered an explanation of what biomass fuel is, only 23 per cent of respondents agreed it could be suitably interpreted as “green” energy, signifying a “significant level of confusion” on the issue, according to Bowden.

“Not only do domestic and small business customers have to battle with a variety of misleading claims and poorly presented information, they are then being charged a premium for what they believe is environmentally friendly energy, which can be more polluting than coal.”

In response to the findings, Squeaky is calling on Ofgem to develop and enforce a clear standard labelling system for energy products: “We want to see them [Ofgem] clean up the energy market and give customers a simple and clear way to understand energy sources and make informed decisions about where they buy their energy from.”