Green Power Purchasing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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Should RECs or GOs be used for any form of GHG emissions accounting?

Short answer

No, RECs and GOs are not appropriate for either attributional or consequential GHG accounting. For detailed explanation of these terms, see here.

Long explanation

The marketing around RECs and GOs is the source of much confusion and misleading statements. For example, Green-e® offers confusing guidance on whether REC purchases actually reduce emissions:

“Participants may make statements about avoided grid GHG emissions in association with the renewable energy generation or the supply used for the renewable energy product. However, they must not imply a causal link between the purchase of renewable energy and avoided emissions (i.e. that purchases result in generation or avoided grid emissions). […] To calculate avoided grid GHG emissions in regions without a cap-and-trade program covering the electricity sector, Participants must use the marginal non-baseload emissions rate.” (Green-e® Code of Conduct, p29, 11 December 2020).

The fact is that RECs and GOs are neither a sound basis for corporate/organizational GHG emission inventories (i.e., “carbon footprints” as a form of attributional environmental accounting) nor are they in any way an appropriate tool for emission reduction claims, such as those made through GHG emission “offset” credits (i.e., as a form of consequential environmental accounting).[1]

[1] 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.