Policy update - Accounting for green power

12th March 2013

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IEMA's Nick Blyth on the development of new guidelines on how to account for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions produced by electricity from "green" tariffs

How organisations account for supplied “green” electricity in their carbon footprints varies considerably and can be contentious.

To harmonise practices worldwide, the World Resources Institute is developing new GHG accounting guidelines specifically for green electricity. IEMA is participating in the development of the guidelines, and has witnessed divergent views emerge on the two main approaches:

  • Consumed scope 2 – counting the GHGs of electricity supplied to, and consumed by, the organisation, mainly using grid-average factors.
  • Purchased scope 2 – counting the GHGs attributed to the generation of purchased electricity, which can lead to zero-emission accounting.

In the UK, Defra guidance for organisations is for all purchased electricity – supplied via the national grid – to be accounted for using a grid average emission factor. This provides an incentive for energy efficiency and onsite renewables, but it does not encourage organisations to switch to “greener” tariffs. Internationally, practice is more varied.

One proposal is for a dual reporting principle that acknowledges the two distinct means of assessing emissions and the GHG risks and opportunities potentially reflected in each figure.

This would require companies to quantify scope 2 emissions based on where the electricity was consumed and, where applicable, calculate the emissions associated with purchased electricity separately.

IEMA believes this approach would be an improvement on the existing GHG protocol and tested this through a mini poll of members.

The dual approach offers a number of benefits, according to the poll’s respondents, including: more complete information for decision making and greater transparency for stakeholders.

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