• Renewable Energy Certificates
  • Net Zero Energy Consumption
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  • Energy Attribute Certificates

Granular Energy Attribute Certificates Are the Key to 24/7 Renewables

Roberto Rodriguez Labastida
Feb 20, 2023

Guidehouse Insights

In the past, I have written about Google’s journey to procure 100% of the electricity it consumes from additional renewable energy (e.g., energy generated by new renewable energy projects). As I've explained previously, most companies settle their supply-demand balance of renewable energy on an annual basis, instead of using the energy from the renewables plants they contracted at the time it is generated, meaning not all of the energy a company uses during the year will come from renewable sources. This is because renewable energy supply tends to be variable—solar plants, for example, might generate most of their electricity on sunny days in the summer and very little in the winter—whereas a data center’s energy demand stays fairly constant. Renewable energy production also ranges throughout a single day. To tackle this issue, Google developed a strategy aimed at sourcing renewable energy on a 24/7 basis. As more companies embark on a similar journey, there is an increased need to standardize the way every megawatt-hour is produced.

24/7 Renewables and Granular RECs

Buying renewable energy credits (RECs) is a way for companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and clean energy and to meet regulations or voluntary goals for renewable energy use. An REC represents proof that 1 MWh of electricity was generated from a renewable energy source. Traditional RECs certify production that happened in a specific year.

Granular RECs—also called hourly RECs, granular certificates, or time-based energy attribute certificates (T-EACs)—track specific renewable energy generation on an hourly basis, which can be used to match energy consumption hour by hour. By purchasing granular RECs, companies can ensure that the renewable energy they are buying matches their energy consumption in real time, rather than settling up at the end of the year based on the overall annual generation of a renewable energy facility.

Why Granular RECs?

Granular RECs can provide a number of benefits for the electricity grid:

  • Increased grid stability: By tracking and matching renewable energy generation on an hourly basis, granular RECs can help ensure that the grid has a consistent and reliable source of renewable energy. This can improve grid stability and reduce the need for fossil-fuel-based power plants to be used as backups.
  • Better integration of renewable energy: Granular RECs can help facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which have variable and often unpredictable output, into the grid. By tracking and matching generation hour by hour, grid operators can more easily manage the integration of these sources.
  • Promotion of supporting technologies: By exposing buyers to the ups and downs of renewable generation (and the accompanying price fluctuations), granular RECs encourage buyers to adjust their processes or invest in technologies like energy storage to reduce the cost of their RECs.
  • Improved forecasting and planning: By tracking renewable energy generation on an hourly basis, granular RECs can provide more detailed and accurate data on renewable energy production. This can help grid operators to make better-informed decisions when it comes to forecasting, planning, and operating the grid.
  • Assurance that green hydrogen and other power-to-X products are truly green: While we are working hard to electrify new segments of the economy, to truly produce green products, we need to ensure that the electricity they consume is also green. Granular RECs can provide that assurance.
Added Complexity

While granular RECs are necessary to achieve net-zero energy, they do add complexity to the tracking system. Ultimately, in a net-zero world, we would need to track every megawatt-hour generated at every hour of the year—and do so transparently and reliably, so buyers and sellers know exactly what they are exchanging. Companies such as Powerledger have developed platforms that simply this process while providing the transparency and reliability needed by the industry.

To learn more about granular certificates, Google’s 24/7 journey, and how can Powerledger help, please watch our Building a Market for Granular Certificates webinar on the topic.