Ensuring Renewable Electricity Market Instruments Contribute to the Global Low-Carbon Transition and Sustainable Development Goals

Owen Hewlett, Chief Technical Officer at Gold Standard, and Meinrad Bürer, Chair of Gold Standard’s Technical Governance Committee, on measures corporates can take to ensure their investments in renewable electricity result in real-world emissions reductions, new renewable energy capacity and sustainable development benefits.

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In December 2015, the Paris Agreement set the ambitious goal of limiting global temperature rises to a maximum of 2oC above pre-industrial levels – a necessary measure to prevent catastrophic climate change. The International Energy Agency projects that in order to stay within this 2oC threshold, 42% of electricity will need to be supplied by renewable sources by 2030, meaning the world needs to double its current renewable power capacity.

Corporations are the world’s biggest consumers of energy, putting them in a position to be powerful drivers of global change. As the cost of renewable electricity continues to fall, many are taking proactive action to drive the transition to a low-carbon economy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. 

There are several options companies wishing to purchase renewable electricity can consider but, for many, renewable energy attribute certificates are the most convenient, affordable and accessible choice. Through purchasing renewable attribute certificates, corporates send a clear signal they want to increase demand for, and availability of, new renewable electricity generation capacity. Yet, not all renewable energy attribute certificates are born equal, and not all result in net greenhouse gas reductions or the generation of new renewable power plants or devices. Moreover, the quality and rigour of different certification approaches is variable.  

This paper looks at important lessons we can learn from carbon markets to ensure that companies investing in renewable energy attribute certificates can feel confident they are contributing to cleaner air, a safer climate and a sustainable future for our planet. It also presents out a hierarchy of best practice for corporates looking to reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing renewable electricity.

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Gold Standard looks forward to launching a new Renewable Energy Product Label later this year, with support from South Pole Group and the Overlook International Foundation.

Innovation-Solution Category: Optimising markets
Media Category: Opinion