Due to the adverse effects, fossil fuel generation has on the environment, sustainability has become an essential part of business practices. But what does it mean to be sustainable? There are many ways to market your business as sustainable, but the most common and generally cheapest option is purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). In this blog post, we will cover how RECs are created, who has them, and why businesses should want to buy them.
What are RECs and How are they Generated?
Electricity can come from clean energy sources such as wind and solar, or from fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal. However, once the electricity is delivered to your business there is no way to quantify how much of it comes from a renewable source. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are a measurement tool for states, utilities, and businesses to quantify what percentage of their electricity is generated from clean or “green” resources, like solar and wind.
A REC is created for every 1 MWh of electricity generated and delivered to the grid from a clean energy source. For example, if an organization uses 100 MWh/year and wants to market themselves as purchasing 100% clean energy, they will have to purchase 100 RECs to reach their goal.
An organization has many different options when it comes to who they can purchase RECs from. Businesses can purchase RECs from any entity that owns a renewable energy project or has invested in a renewable energy project. This includes utilities, third-party suppliers, third-party party brokers, or another organization that has invested ownership in a renewable energy project.
Organizations that have invested ownership acquire the RECs associated with that project. For example, if Mcdonald’s entered into a solar Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA), they would receive the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) associated with the project and could sell them to another organization.
Businesses can also specify what state their RECs come from, what generation source, and the specific project. If an organization in Philadelphia wants to support local solar energy projects, they can request that their RECs come from a solar project in Philadelphia.
When it comes to who you should purchase RECs from, the two cheapest options are from a third-party supplier or a third-party broker. Suppliers can bundle RECs with your supply agreement for a small premium. Third-party party brokers have access to renewable projects from all over the country and therefore can find the most affordable option for your budget.
Which state and what resource RECs come from also affect how much an organization pays. Texas wind and Maine hydropower are two of the cheapest options due to the overabundance of wind in Texas and hydropower in Maine.
What are the Benefits of Buying RECs?
Purchasing RECs is an inexpensive option for organizations to market themselves as a sustainable business without having to install their own renewable energy project on their roof or land. Solar projects can cost anywhere from $10,000-$100,000, which many businesses cannot afford. REC purchases can cost a fraction of what it would cost to install a solar project, without having to pay for the development and installation which can take months to complete.
In addition to the economic benefits, purchasing RECs allows businesses to market themselves as sustainable to potential employees, clients, and investors. Sustainability practices are now expected in the workplace and lead to higher job satisfaction among employees. A survey conducted by The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) found that 90% of salaried workers believe engaging in their business’ sustainability practices enhances their overall job satisfaction.
Purchasing RECs can also help a business reach its environmental goals by reducing the amount of electricity they consume from fossil fuels, lowering emissions. By purchasing RECs, businesses are investing in renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind, which do not emit harmful greenhouse gasses.
With organizations placing a larger focus on how to market their business as sustainable, it is important to know that there are many options to choose from. Purchasing RECs is a simple, low-cost option that allows organizations to meet their sustainability goals. RECs show that your business is invested in reducing your carbon footprint to create a more sustainable future.