Across the United States, educational facilities such as schools and universities are beginning to embrace solar energy on campus. Through financing mechanisms like power purchase agreements (PPAs), solar panels are becoming an increasingly common sight for students and faculty alike.
Why are Schools, Universities, and Colleges Going Solar?
There are a range of institutional goals which these educational facilities can meet by investing in solar energy. Some common institutional goals include:
Using renewable energy like solar to power the institution itself.
Reducing the institution’s carbon footprint.
Meeting clean energy commitments outline as part of external initiatives and partnerships such as:
Protecting the institution against future fluctuations in electricity prices.
Investing in renewable energy generation.
Once you have identified the specific goals for your school, university, or college, it’s important to research and understand the relevant purchasing mechanisms in order to choose the mechanism which will best serve your particular goals.
The first three goals listed above represent renewable energy usage claims. This means that they communicate and require the use or consumption of renewable energy. To meet these types of goals, you must show that you are using specified solar PV generation which has not been double counted, delivered elsewhere, or claimed by another consumer. This is where renewable energy certificates (RECs) come into play. The ownership and retirement of RECs is required to make such renewable energy usage claims as those necessitated by the first three goals listed above.
What is a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC)?
A renewable energy certificate (REC) is representative of the environmental benefits, and other attributes, of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy generation on the electric grid. Every MWh of renewable electricity which is generated results in two commodities—1 MWh of electricity which is sent to the grid and 1 renewable energy certificate. RECs are used to track and account for both delivery and usage of renewable energy. Renewable energy purchases must be verified contractually using RECs, as required by the shared electric grid. Only the entity which owns the REC in question can legally claim to be using renewable energy.
Renewable Energy Certificate Markets in the United States
Electricity providers and utility companies throughout the United States purchase and retire RECs from renewable energy generators to demonstrate the delivery of renewable energy to customers. This is done to meet state requirements, such as those outlined in a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and voluntary demand for renewable energy, which may be outlined as part of a voluntary green power option, for example. Consumers (companies, institutions, individuals) use RECs to substantiate claims of renewable energy usage. RECs are a key component in the workings of the U.S. electricity market, functioning as a sort of “renewable energy currency” in both compliance and voluntary renewable energy markets.
What is a Renewable Energy Usage Claim?
A renewable energy usage claim is a statement of renewable energy use or consumption. Examples of such statements include:
“This institution is powered by clean energy.”
“We are powered by solar energy.”
“By installing solar panels we have reduced our carbon footprint.”
“We purchase our electricity from a solar facility.”
“We went solar and reduced our carbon footprint.”
Making a Renewable Energy Usage Claim
In addition to the multiple resources published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning renewable energy claims, a number of states have published their own guidance requiring that RECs accompany renewable energy claims. Additionally, organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) offer guidance for voluntary certification and recognition programs. In order to make a renewable energy usage claim, certain criteria must be met:
You must be the exclusive owner of, or have exclusive right to, the REC for the renewable generation you’re claiming.
The RECs must be tracked and transferred in an electronic tracking system, or through a legally enforceable contract.
The REC has to be fully aggregated, so individual environmental attributes of renewable energy, like carbon attributes, cannot have been sold off, used to create other instruments like carbon offsets, or used by another party or policy/regulation.
RECs should be applied to consumption that occurs within close temporal proximity to the time of REC generation.
You must specify:
Quantity (e.g. kWh)
Time Period of Consumption
If you’re interested in developing a solar energy project for your school, university, college, or any other educational facility, then reach out to YSG Solar today. YSG has been working in the industry for over a decade and is vastly experienced in the development of large-scale solar PV projects. To get in touch, send us an email or call at 212.389.9215.
YSG Solar is a project development company responsible for commoditizing energy infrastructure projects. We work with long-term owners and operators to provide clean energy assets with stable, predictable cash flows. YSG's market focus is distributed generation and utility-scale projects located within North America.
All information provided in this article is courtesy of the document, ‘Solar Energy on Campus’, created by the Center for Resource Solutions, available to read in full at the links below.