RECs, Offsets, and Carbon Neutrality

“Our company has purchased the number of RECs that total all of our electricity use, so we are carbon neutral.”

This is a common claim. And though we applaud the spirit in which the REC contract was made, the claim is problematic, because:

  1. RENEWABLE ENERGY HAS A CARBON FOOTPRINT.
  2. RECs DON’T APPLY TO THE CARBON FOOTPRINT ASSOCIATED WITH OTHER BUSINESS ACTIVITIES.

Renewable Energy Credits alone will not get you to carbon neutral. The manufacture, transportation, and assembly of renewable energy components, and the maintenance of a renewable energy system currently still requires the use of some fossil fuel energy. Grid energy, transportation fuel, operation of construction and maintenance equipment, all play a role in that carbon footprint. Daily operations other than electricity use, like water use, use of non-electric appliances and equipment, etc., also have a carbon footprint.

The Center for Resource Solutions and the EPA’s Green Power Partnership have some very helpful explanations in regard to the different applications for RECs and Carbon Offsets. Please see resources below.