The following is a contributed article by Ben Gerber, president and CEO of M-RETS.
Between government regulations and rising consumer demand, corporations are increasingly relying on renewable energy markets to meet requirements and goals around decarbonization. Those markets grew significantly in 2020, despite COVID-19. Add to that a new presidential administration that supports moving to a zero-emissions power sector by 2035, and we can anticipate that growth to accelerate.
This has created a need for more data to better track and quantify progress toward decarbonization. Buying renewable energy credits is an important first step – understanding exactly where that energy came from and how it matches up to a corporation’s energy use has become crucial to tracking carbon emissions.
In California, State Senator Josh Becker just recently introduced legislation calling for this exact level of data collection. SB67, also known as the California 24/7 Clean Energy Standard, calls for enhanced hourly tracking of clean energy resources to help the state meet its goal of using 100% clean energy.
Most renewable energy purchasers still rely on the existing grid – which includes a mix of renewable and carbon-emitting sources – and they will for the foreseeable future. This makes hourly generation information important for two reasons. First, it can help energy consumers understand how their purchasing decisions may influence grid emissions, like how placing a generator in one location might lead to greater grid decarbonization benefits over another location. Second, it allows customers to temporally match the production of renewable energy with their consumption.
As a nonprofit technology platform focused on producing and tracking renewable energy certificates, known as RECs, M-RETS believes that layering energy market data onto hourly renewable energy credits can provide consumers with a powerful tool to measure and better understand the impacts they may have on the grid, including potential greenhouse gas emissions.
Just recently, we facilitated the first-ever hourly REC retirement on behalf of Google. It was an important first step that we believe can and will lead to many more transactions as energy users begin focusing on integrating hourly and grid data in a way that is replicable and accessible on a global scale. With more data, we can prioritize investments in renewable energy generation in the areas that can drive the greatest decarbonization benefits.
However, to achieve this we need industry-wide, global data standards. If we are all aiming at different targets when it comes to measuring and tracking energy use, it becomes prohibitive for corporations and users to engage and measure their progress in the overall marketplace.
Groups like EnergyTag are attempting to implement those global standards so that energy consumers can affordably and efficiently integrate data across their operations. This will also allow for third parties to access the registry and potentially automate these functions, attracting an even wider variety of renewable energy consumers.
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If we can reach this level of consensus, we will create new openings for renewable energy markets that did not exist before. By making more data-driven – and thus more accurate – decisions around the planning, procurement and incentivization of renewables within the energy grid, we can cost-effectively achieve our ambitious carbon reduction goals.