Green Power Purchasing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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Should I use RECs or GOs to support my claims of “carbon neutrality” or “net zero”?

Short Answer

No, it has been established that the voluntary markets for RECs and GOs do not influence investments in renewable energy generation capacity, nor do they induce greater energy output from existing renewable generation capacity. They, therefore, cause no emission reductions.[1]

Long explanation

RECs and GOs are not appropriate for tracking or representing physical procurement of energy (or vaguely defined “environmental benefits” (see What are the “environmental benefits” or “attributes” associated with RECs and GOs?); they are instead simply a record that generation of electricity occurred which is converted into a tradable instrument for regulatory compliance purposes by electric utilities (not end-use consumers). Claiming to have caused emissions reductions must be based on a consequential GHG accounting analysis.

Confusion and mistakes in the use of RECs and GOs are unfortunately fostered by institutions like the U.S. EPA, which defines these certificates as emission reduction instruments used to lower an organization’s market-based Scope 2 emissions while also acknowledging that no consequential (i.e., additionality) analysis is required to support this claim or to report use of green power. This all too common language problematically conflates attributional and consequential GHG accounting.[2]

Companies are not properly considered carbon neutral with respect to their indirect emissions as long as their purchased electricity is supplied in some significant part by GHG emitting generation resources. Green-e® acknowledges that their certificates and other products should not be used for “carbon neutrality” claims:

“The Green-e® Energy program does not support or endorse claims of carbon neutrality. Carbon-neutral claims may not be made about or in relation to Green-e® certified products […].” Green-e® Code of Conduct, p27 (11 December 2020).

In developing an organization’s GHG inventory, it is incorrect to use RECs or GOs as the basis to a claim to zero indirect emissions associated with purchased electricity (see Should RECs or GOs be used for any form of GHG emissions accounting?).


[1] Evidentiary resources and literature available here: https://www.bccas.business-school.ed.ac.uk/impact-and-collaboration/renewable-energy-purchasing/

[2] Brander, M. (2021). The most important GHG accounting concept you have never heard of: the attributional-consequential distinction. Seattle, WA. Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, April 2021. https://ghginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Consequential-and-Attributional-Accounting-April-2021.pdf