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Richard Brooks's picture
Co-Founder and Lead Software Engineer, Reliable Energy Analytics LLC

Dick Brooks is the inventor of patent 11,374,961: METHODS FOR VERIFICATION OF SOFTWARE OBJECT AUTHENTICITY AND INTEGRITY and the Software Assurance Guardian™ (SAG ™) Point Man™ (SAG-PM™) software...

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  • Dec 2, 2020

As the stakes for decarbonization get higher, it’s both strategic and appropriate for the interaction between voluntary programs and utility targets to evolve. Policymakers are increasingly recognizing the role the voluntary market can play in a state’s path to achieving 100 percent clean energy, even explicitly carving out space for it. Similar thinking on the value of the voluntary market has led to creative program design that complements utility targets in many contexts. Utilities’ urgent need to decarbonize, coupled with the voluntary market’s growth, makes a compelling case for utility leaders to integrate their voluntary renewable energy programs into their clean energy plans.

The AOCE capacity market design leverages these voluntary capacity investments in Green Energy by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and others to help meet State Energy goals in New England. NAESB is working on a standard REC "Master Agreement" to serve as a common model contract for utilities to provide voluntary REC's to Green Buyers. This will help utilities manage their REC accounting processes and simplify the terms and conditions for voluntary REC procurement nationwide.

NARUC is also hosting a session on 12/3 discussing how States can achieve their energy goals with the help of green buyer capacity purchases; I'm planning to attend.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 2, 2020

Richard, you do realize "Renewable Energy Credits" double-count the clean energy contribution of solar and wind energy, do you not? That "100% renewable" plans based on RECs are actually only 50% renewable?

Renewable power producers are awarded RECs for each MWh of clean electricity they generate. They can then sell the RECs, which supposedly represent the "clean energy attributes" of the energy they've sold, to fossil fuel producers, who are allowed to use them to "offset" their dirty generation to meet state clean energy goals. But the solar producer doesn't accept responsibility for the emissions generated by the coal or gas producer - no one does. Two entities are allowed to take credit for generating each MWh of clean electricity - even though one could be the dirtiest coal plant in the state.

In California and 25 other states this scam is being used to "meet" clean energy goals that were never met. How can you - or anyone else - consider such an arrangement "green"?

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Dec 2, 2020

Bob, you're describing greenwashing, which is differrent from how voluntary REC's work. Under a voluntary REC program Green energy is produced and attested to by a party with the authority to validate the metered results. REC's are created for these green MWh that have actually been created. Companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others obtain these REC's, which are immediately "retired" so they cannot be used by a "dirty generator" to offset their emissions. This effectively "starves" the dirty generators from getting their "ticket to emit" via REC's, which prevents them from running/emiting GHG because they cannot get the REC's they need to offset  their pollution.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 3, 2020

That's not how it works, Richard. From Google:

"The answer is the renewable energy certificates (RECs) issued by the renewables industry to record every unit of energy that’s produced by renewable means. Producers can use RECs to verify how much clean energy they produce, and consumers can buy that verification to match against their consumption. When Google buys renewable energy, in addition to the physical power we also buy its corresponding RECs. We then sell the renewable electricity back to the wholesale market but retain the RECs. We run our facilities with ordinary power purchased from local utilities and permanently “retire” the RECs against our actual energy consumption, thus reducing our carbon footprint."

When Google sells renewable electricity back to the market, does the purchaser take credit for the renewable attributes of its energy? Of course it does. When Google "permanently retires the RECs against our actual energy consumption", does it not use a piece of paper to take credit for the same renewable energy? Of course it does - it's double-counted. And no one takes responsibility for the carbon emitted while generating Google's "ordinary power" - we're supposed to believe it's been magically wiped from the air.

Do the math - RECs are a scam. And a scam, by any other name, is still a scam.

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Dec 3, 2020

Bob, this prevents others from claiming to have used renewable energy: "We run our facilities with ordinary power purchased from local utilities and permanently “retire” the RECs against our actual energy consumption, thus reducing our carbon footprint.""

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 3, 2020

When Google says they permanently retire the RECs "against their actual energy consumption", Google is (falsely) counting an equivalent amount of their actual energy consumption as renewable, even if it was generated by a coal plant. Who cares if they retire it? The energy that generated their REC has already been double-counted.

The FTC has been aware of the potential for fraud with RECs  for years. Apparently, solar farm developers have made the case consumers are helping to build more renewable energy by double-counting it - fine. But Google is marketing its services as being powered by 100% renewable energy, and that's a lie.

Answer me this: if Google's server farms don't turn off after the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing, how could they possibly be using 100% renewable energy?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 2, 2020

Is there any concern that an overreliance on the voluntary measures is simply passing the buck? Or can it carve out a dual-opportunity like building energy efficiency with minimum energy requirements that are well-complemented with programs like ENERGY STAR? 

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