Google and Microsoft among businesses backing 24/7 clean energy tracking

Firms such as Vattenfall and Engie are working on the new initiative, spearheaded by the independent non-profit EnergyTag. The companies are aiming to demonstrate the viability of verifying clean electricity supply on an hourly basis in order to provide accurate 24/7 data.

Currently most energy attribute certificates – known as Guarantees of Origin (GOs) in Europe, Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) in the US and Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) in the UK – are issued for each unit (MWh) of clean energy production.

Most companies purchase these certificates in order to meet annual demands, meaning the production of green energy is accounted for on annual levels. What this fails to cover is the volatility of clean energy supply, including cases where renewables generation might be scarce, and fossil fuels contribute more to grids, or where renewables are oversupplied and therefore wasted.

EnergyTag states that there is currently no recognised system to verify hourly clean energy consumption and has banded together more than 100 corporates to test and demonstrate the viability of improved clean energy traceability.

EnergyTag’s founder Dr Toby Ferenczi said: “Imagine trying to drink just the apple juice from a smoothie – it’s impossible when it’s all blended together. It is the same problem with electricity. We need a transparent way of verifying the source of the power we consume each hour to accelerate deployment of the technologies needed to fight climate change.

 “We’re calling on more of the world’s largest energy users, energy companies and investors to participate and help achieve round-the-clock clean energy for everyone.”

The companies have announced six demonstrator projects in the US, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Australia with corporate support from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Vattenfall, Centrica, Energinet, Statkraft and Eneco. The projects will trial hourly data on renewables generation and how grid flexibility and energy storage can help deliver a zero-carbon system, with results to be published by the end of the year.

The market for Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) is currently far more mature in the USA and Central America at present than in Europe. Bloomberg NEF’s analysis of clean energy PPAs concluded that a 40% global year-on-year increase in corporate clean energy procurement in 2019 was led by action in the US. However, Covid-19 has meant that the amount of generation backed by US-based corporates signing PPAs was almost one-third lower in the first half of 2020 than in the first half of 2019.

Renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) made by corporates in Europe totalled 8GW in 2019, up from 5.5GW in 2018.

Google is aiming to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030 and has turned to PPAs as well as onsite solutions and financing renewable projects to help reach the target.

“Google intends to run on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times by 2030,” says Michael Terrell, Director of Energy at Google and head of its 24/7 carbon-free energy programme. “EnergyTag will be an important tool for helping Google and many others source carbon-free energy for their operations, at an hourly level. We are excited to be part of the EnergyTag initiative and look forward to supporting the development of this important standard.” 

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Matt Mace

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