Green Power Purchasing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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Could hourly RECs or GOs make them appropriate for GHG accounting?

Short answer

No, at least not without other structural changes.

Long explanation

RECs and GOs are recorded according to the year they were issued. A new type of certificate that is recorded on an hourly basis could mostly address one problem with annually denoted RECs and GOs—of claiming a generator-specific indirect emissions factor that is mismatched in time with an organization’s actual electricity consumption. (RECs and GOs are in some cases not even associated with generation that occurred in the same year as they are claimed for use by a company, e.g., a 2018 vintage REC is claimed to be “used” by a company for its electricity consumption in 2020.)

In theory, if the following criteria were met, then certificates could be an appropriate allocation instrument for attributional GHG accounting by companies:

  • the electricity consumer and REC/GO purchasing organization as well as the renewable energy generator are on the same distribution or transmission grid,
  • if certificates were used and allocated for all generation (not only renewable), and
  • if GHG accounting of Scope 2 emissions was performed by all organizations using certificates (i.e., the attributional concept that the sum of all parts equals a whole).

Currently, renewable energy purchasing claims are incompletely allocated, partly double counted, as well as mismatched in both time and geography (space). Better matching certificates in time with a company’s load does not address all the other disqualifying characteristics of RECs and GOs for GHG accounting.