Key Purchasing Considerations for Renewable Energy anywhere in the world using RECs

As the world transitions towards a sustainable and greener future, companies are increasingly turning to renewable energy sources to power their operations. One of the simplest avenues for achieving this commitment is through Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). These certificates represent the environmental attributes of renewable energy generation and provide companies with a means to support clean energy initiatives.

To achieve best practices, align the investment with sustainability goals and remove the risk of any claims of greenwashing, companies need to consider a number of criteria when purchasing.

These criteria include the technology generating the energy, the period (vintage) when it was generated, quantity required, location of generation, alignment with global programs or best practices, and risks associated with the registry (the authority issuing the certificates) or issuing country. The latest advance in RECs now includes timestamping the generation period to match load profiles.

RECs globally go by several different names:

  • International RECs (IRECs)
  • New Zealand (NZECs – Energy Certificates)
  • Australia (LGCs – Large Generations Certificates, and in future Guarantee of Origin – GO)
  • Tradable Instrument for Global Renewables (TIGR) a Registry for RECs

Harnessing Carbon Offsets and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for Authentic Decarbonisation - Northmore Gordon

RECs Criteria:

  1. Technology
    The technology employed in renewable energy projects significantly impacts the overall environmental benefits. Whether it’s solar, wind, hydro, or other clean energy sources, understanding the technology behind the generation process helps companies assess the long-term sustainability and effectiveness of the RECs they are purchasing. For example, Under RE100 Hydrogen is not recognized because hydrogen is not an energy resource. Rather, it is an energy carrier that is manufactured and has an underlying energy resource as an input. Hydrogen is therefore only renewable if the energy resource used in its manufacture is renewable, Hence it is critical to be aware of the technical criteria of the framework your business is committed to or adhering to GHG Protocol Corporate Standard is considered an excellent benchmark.
  2. Vintage
    The vintage of RECs is a crucial factor, indicating the year in which the associated renewable energy was generated. Companies should consider aligning the vintage of RECs with their reporting year to ensure accurate representation of their commitment to renewable energy in specific timeframes. For instance, recent years have seen significant improvements in the efficiency of solar panels and wind turbines, leading to increased energy output. As technology advances, procuring recent vintages helps businesses make sure their procurement adheres to the latest regulatory changes and demonstrates commitment. For example, RE100 now only recognizes Starting January 1, 2024, RE100 members will need to secure renewable electricity or GOs specifically from power plants constructed or recommissioned within the last 15 years. However, there’s a provision: an exemption applies to 15% of a company’s overall electricity usage.
  3. Quantity
    Assessing the quantity of RECs needed involves understanding a company’s energy consumption and sustainability goals. Careful calculations of your scopes will help determine the number of RECs required to offset a specific percentage of the company’s energy usage or achieve a certain level of renewable energy consumption. Tailoring to energy consumption patterns helps businesses match the right type of RECs. For example, a manufacturing facility with intensive production processes may have distinct energy needs compared to a technology company with extensive data centre operations running 24/7. In this case, the data centre may benefit from procuring new time-stamped RECs or ‘24/7 RECs’ as defined by RE100 Guidelines to match their constant usage.
  4. Location
    The geographical location of renewable energy projects is significant in determining the impact of RECs. Supporting projects in regions with abundant renewable resources not only enhances the environmental impact but may also contribute to local economic development. Companies should consider aligning their RECs with regions that complement their sustainability objectives. Market boundaries are often defined by the framework you are adhering to or as a rule of thumb it is an advisable practice to procure RECs within the country where the emissions took place.
  5. RE100 Alignment
    For companies committed to 100% renewable energy consumption (RE100), ensuring that purchased RECs align with this goal is paramount. RE100-aligned RECs contribute directly to a company’s renewable energy targets, demonstrating a clear commitment to transitioning away from conventional energy sources. Here RE100 Members have another option to procure green power directly from the supplier supported by retirement of EACs corresponding to it.
  6. Registry Preference
    Selecting RECs from reputable registries adds credibility to a company’s commitment to renewable energy. Registries like the Green-e Energy Certification or the International REC Standard ensure that the purchased RECs meet stringent environmental and social standards, providing transparency and accountability in the renewable energy market. Some examples of registries are Evident(I-RECs) , TIGR , Certified energy New Zealand , Clean energy regulator , M-RETS etc.
  7. Sovereign Risk
    Companies operating internationally should consider the sovereign risk associated with the countries where their chosen renewable energy projects are located. Assessing political stability, regulatory frameworks, and potential risks related to changes in government policies can mitigate potential challenges and uncertainties in the long-term viability of RECs. For example, Under recent changes in RE100 guidelines 8 countries have been excluded from the single-market boundary of Europe supporting the Guarantee of Origins RECs.
  8. Major Operational Changes in the Past Year
    Companies should investigate whether there have been any significant operational changes in the renewable energy projects associated with the RECs over the past year. Changes in ownership, technology upgrades, or expansions can impact the overall effectiveness and reliability of the certificates. For example, Unbundled EACs cannot be used to decarbonize electricity from a non-renewable project. (e.g., a CHP system) under RE100 Framework when the project is owned by the company (therefore, the emissions from it are in scope 1), or when the project is on-site or when there is a direct line to the project (therefore, the electricity is not sourced from the grid).

As companies strive to integrate sustainability into their operations, the careful selection of Renewable Energy Certificates becomes imperative. This strategic approach not only enhances a company’s environmental credentials but also supports the global transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future. Although PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) and VPPAs are feasible alternatives, most organizations prefer EACs due to their inherent flexibility and accessibility when navigating the intricate world of renewable energy procurement.

You may also like:

Latest Updates