How to make credible renewable electricity usage claims - and why it matters: Roberto Zanchi, CDP

Reading time: 3 minutes
3 May 2016

As the RE100 Technical Advisory Group issues best practice guidance for corporates making claims over their use of renewable electricity, Roberto Zanchi, Technical Manager for renewable energy at CDP, which partners with The Climate Group on RE100, blogs on the importance of being credible.

Companies join RE100 with a commitment to 100% renewable electricity, an ambitious goal that earns due admiration among their peers and attention in the press. Being a public commitment, the RE100 goal is also a promise to a company’s own employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders. For these reasons, what businesses say through a visible platform like RE100 – and how – matters.

Our members look to RE100 for guidance on what they can and can’t say publicly around their use of renewable electricity. What does it mean for a company to use renewable electricity? How can the 100% goal be achieved? As Technical Manager for renewable energy at CDP, I know these are fundamental questions that businesses grapple with.

Technical Advisory Group

The RE100 Technical Advisory Group is a team of renewable energy experts from the Americas, Europe and India helping RE100 to set out criteria and best practice for corporates in the campaign. The Group enables our members to discover new options for making real progress toward their global 100% goals, and helps RE100 to earn its own credibility.

Since 2014, the Technical Advisory Group has produced guidance on corporate renewable electricity options, participated in many of our knowledge exchange webinars, and connected us to projects and events run by their organizations.

Now, a new briefing authored by three Technical Advisory Group members – Jared Braslawsky (RECS International), Todd Jones (Center for Resource Solutions) and Mary Sotos (World Resources Institute) – is a ‘must read’ for the major corporates in the campaign as well as those who want to understand more about emerging best practice on this topic.

Making credible renewable electricity usage claims, or ‘Credible Claims’ for short, is a technical deep-dive into corporate transparency and credibility and has been one year in the making, in consultation with our companies and stakeholders in the industry.

Credible RE claims and why they matter

For me, there are three important takeaways from this document. First, it helps us understand the notion of corporate renewable electricity usage. Second, it sets out clear criteria for companies and their power providers to follow. Third, it can help drive adoption of best practice and even the development of emerging RE markets.

Let me elaborate.

- Using renewable electricity

When a company uses renewable electricity, it might make a claim like:

  • “Our company consumes renewable electricity.”
  • “Our company uses wind energy to make this product.”
  • “We procure renewable electricity for all our operations.”

But what does it really mean for a corporation to use renewable electricity?

Credible Claims incorporates previous guidance provided by the Technical Advisory Group, and helps companies to understand that the use of renewable electricity is a different claim to “zero GHG emissions” for electricity. Credible Claims emphasizes the importance of making this distinction for both companies’ internal target setting and communication to the public.

- Criteria for making credible claims

The second feat of Credible Claims is it sets out criteria useful to companies seeking to align with best practice. When making claims to the use of renewable electricity, businesses should ask themselves and their suppliers the following questions:

  • “Are our claims based on credible renewable electricity generation data?”
  • "What qualities of renewable generation are our claims based on?”
  • “Does our company have exclusive rights to these attributes?”
  • “Is there risk of another agent in the system claiming the same as their own?”
  • “When was the power produced and when was it consumed?”
  • “What market or geographic limitations should there be on our claims?”

Credible Claims is a first step toward giving companies a framework to support their decision-making when it comes to purchasing more renewable electricity. For example, it guides information collection and the verification of those purchases, and the communication of related claims.

Companies can also use the criteria to engage renewable electricity suppliers. Ideally, this effort will favor suppliers who are more transparent and offer products that more closely meet corporate customer needs.

Developing a global RE market

Trust is essential to a well-functioning marketplace and credible information can help build trust. By putting the recommendations of Credible Claims into practice, and asking for more transparency and credibility of themselves and their electricity suppliers, corporates can promote trust in markets for renewable electricity around the world.

RE100 is not oblivious to the differences between countries and renewable energy markets around the world. In this varied and fast-evolving landscape, there are markets where corporate purchase of renewable electricity is well established, markets where the policies and systems that support claims are emerging, and places where none of this is yet possible at all.

In renewable energy markets like the US and Europe, making credible claims means pursuing attainable best practice. Credible Claims advises that companies use attribute certificates to prove exclusive consumption (Renewable Energy Certificates in the US and Guarantees of Origin in Europe), seek independent third-party verification, and report on their consumption transparently – such as annual reporting to CDP, which RE100 draws on for its Annual Report.

In some of the emerging renewable energy markets around the world, the value of credible claims is in directing corporate demand toward initiatives that need large purchasers and investors to help establish new market options. The existence of a supporting policy environment is often a necessary condition.

One emerging market where corporate demand can drive impact is Taiwan, where RE100 Technical Advisory Group collaborators are spearheading new initiatives with help from RE100 companies. Last month, the Center for Resource Solutions announced financial support from Google to launch renewable certification programs in Asia, starting with Taiwan. In addition, the International REC Standard has been working with stakeholders to allow for the issuance of tracking certificates in the country since 2015.

So whether it’s helping companies improve their own understanding of renewable electricity usage, apply credibility and transparency criteria to their own reporting and purchasing, or getting actively involved in growing the market for the benefit of all companies, Credible Claims can pave the way to more information, trust and accountability.

As this movement grows, I hope to see the impact of RE100 and its partners help to unlock new markets.

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon