Why consume renewable energy?

European energy policy is built upon three pillars: Sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply.  These three pillars were all realized with the adoption of the European 20-20-20 targets.  One goal of these targets aimed to increase renewable electricity production, Europe-wide, by 20% of consumption by the year 2020.  With the goal of reaching 20% renewable electricity consumption known, the only question that remained was about how that target would be met! It became quickly apparent that a well functioning RES market would be the basis for meeting these 2020 targets as well as any energy goals after that date. 

It seemed logical that part of the answer for meeting the electricity goals would be a healthy tracked-electricity market used by willing consumers. Consumer consumption for non-fossil fuel electricity tracked via an electricity tracking system helps drive this RES market and could even help increase the production of renewable electricity before and after the 2020 targets. The main European electricity tracking mechanism, Guarantee of Origin certificates standardized through the EECS system, are increasing in consumption (cancellation) by around 15% a year with the largest to date single yearly cancelation total in 2011 at roughly 240 TWh or 5% of all European electricity consumption. This means that the origin of 5% of all European electricity and 33% of the renewable electricity production in 2011, was tracked via the EECS-GO tracking system. This tracked electricity ‘attributes’ renewable electricity (low carbon, clean, good for security of supply) to private ownership and not a public good. Those that purchase tracked electricity are investing, with their purchase, in their choice of electricity production technology and those that do not make a dedicated electricity purchase via GOs are receiving the electricity attributes ‘left-over’ as a public good. These left-over attributes are known as the residual mix.  

This residual mix led many countries to take the next logical step and regulate that ‘bundled’ green products delivered by an electricity supplier must cancel the appropriate amount of EECS-GOs in order to make a valid and truthful claim to their electricity consumer about the product they have delivered.  Large corporations are also buying these EECS-GO certificates separately, or unbundled, from their electricity purchase to claim the ‘green’/carbon emission attributes attached with them. While these ‘personal’ disclosure statements (also known as carbon accounting or foot printing) reported by large companies are not mandated by any law, it has become an encouraged practice as a way to inform the public about the sustainability and energy usage of private/public organizations.

There are thousands of reasons why the purchase of renewable electricity is something consumers are demanding, but important reasons may be: Electricity disclosure, carbon accounting for corporate social responsibility reports or the consumers’ need to know specific attributes about their electricity consumption.