Friday, November 14, 2008

A look at the Green-E Certification program

The Green-e program is meant to bolster customer confidence in the reliability of retail electricity products reflecting renewable energy generation, expand the retail market for electricity products incorporating renewable energy, provide customers clear information about retail "green" electricity products to enable them to make informed purchasing decisions, and encourage the deployment of electricity products that minimize air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly if our society is going to have a cleaner environment one thing to do is shift electricity generation from Coal to, well, practically anything else will be cleaner than Coal. The style to which we've become accustomed is hugely dependent on cheap energy derived from cheap fossil fuels, but the use of those fossil fuels causes huge problems for us all. Hence there is a need to switch to other resources.

The Green-E program is positioning itself as an arbiter of green electricity, and they offer a stamp of approval that is meant to give "customers" (us) comfort that Green-E certified services are powered by cleanly generated electricity.

The The Center for Resource Solutions manages the Green-E program.

The Green‑e Energy National Standard identifies many criteria renewable energy must meet to be certified. Energy must come from eligible sources of supply, like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, or “low‑impact” hydropower. Only new renewable facilities can be used, ones built since 1997. Energy can’t be used to fulfill a state renewable energy goal, and can’t be “double counted" towards that goal. And marketing to consumers must be accurate—Green‑e performs a marketing compliance review twice a year to ensure that what they say is what you get.

In 2007, renewable energy generated to supply unique Green‑e Energy Certified products prevented emissions to the atmosphere of 5.5 million short tons of CO2, a gas that contributes to global climate change. An equivalent amount of average system power would produce 7,000 tons of SO2, which can lead to acid rain; 6,000 tons of NOx, which causes smog and groundlevel pollution; and over 11 tons of mercury, a toxic substance linked to neurological problems.

"Customers" can query through the site for Green-E certified electricity providers. These are organized by locale and the type of electrical generation. Each provider has a profile page on their site. For example the City of Palo Alto Utilities is listed as being Wind: 97%, Solar: 2%.

Green-e Climate Certified Carbon Offsets is a certification program for the sale of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction products sold in the voluntary market. This is sales of carbon credits deriving from programs which Green-E certifies to be valid. The Green-e Climate Endorsed Programs are independent third-party greenhouse gas (GHG) Project Certification Programs that ensure specific GHG reduction projects result in real, verified, enforceable, permanent, and additional reductions. The specific principles and criteria that Endorsed Programs should meet are outlined in the Green-e Climate Standard. Sellers who seek Green-e Climate certification for the sales of GHG emission reduction products (offsets) must source from projects that are certified by one of the Endorsed Programs.

Why should an electricity provider get certification? They suggest that consumer confidence, quality assurance, recognition, etc, are the benefits. It is a voluntary program so a company has to seek to become qualified.

There are six easy steps to certification and it is these steps where I begin to be concerned about whether Green-E has any standing. The steps are to essentially fill out some paperwork, and send it in along with an application fee. One would hope that the Green-E organization sends out auditors to verify the claims that a provider makes in their application form. One would hope that Green-E inspects facilities on a regular basis, that they take air samples and other measurements, etc. But the process does not discuss any of this, it simply says they review application forms and take money.

There is discussion of an audit procedure but The Verification Process Audit uses company contracts, invoices, and billing statements.


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