Peter Weisberg, Director on the 3Degrees Carbon Markets Team, shares key trends, benefits, and considerations for organizations leveraging RNG certificates to address their operational emissions.
For Okta, an innovative San Francisco-based identity company, addressing its impact on the climate is a foundational component to one of its three Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) pillars. While the company understood the need to confront its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Okta was at the very beginning of its decarbonization journey and, like many other organizations starting out, wanted to make an impactful first step. In August of 2020, Okta completed its first GHG emissions assessment which allowed it to measure its emissions, establish baselines, and begin to define renewable energy and carbon reduction goals.
With this information, Okta approached 3Degrees to help develop a plan to procure renewable energy to address its energy consumption, while also having a positive effect on the community.
Over the past 15 years, 3Degrees has supported The California Bright Schools Program with the procurement of more than 173,000 MWhs of solar RECs from school districts throughout California. Taking into account its desire for community impact, purchasing RECs from California schools proved to be a perfect fit for Okta.
The Bright Schools Program was born out of a vision for school districts to proliferate solar energy adoption and save general fund dollars, while providing clean energy education for students and teachers. This program, implemented through the California Energy Commission, helps identify the most cost-effective energy saving opportunities and supports the installation of photovoltaic solar systems on schools across the state.
The Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD), just southeast of San Francisco, is a great example of how schools are benefiting from solar development. As a participant in the Bright Schools Program, the Milpitas Unified School District is estimated to save $12 million over the portfolio’s lifespan. The district has also created an additional revenue stream through the sale of renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated by the system, which 3Degrees has been purchasing since 2009.
How we helped
Working closely with Okta, 3Degrees assessed the company’s purchase criteria and developed a portfolio of renewable energy options that would meet its energy requirements and desire for additional co-benefits. Through the purchase of RECs generated from the Bright Schools Program’s solar network, Okta was able to demonstrate its commitment to the environment and the community. The purchase helped Okta meet its renewable energy goal for 2020, while also making a positive impact on California schools.
“Every organization should be taking action on climate change, as it adversely affects our people and planet. At Okta, we’re early in our journey, but we’re committed to doing our part and reducing our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. We’re implementing energy efficiency efforts to reduce consumption at our offices — and for energy we consume, we’re investing in renewable energy projects with positive environmental and social impacts. We value our partnership with 3Degrees and their expertise in this area.”
— Alison Colwell, Director of ESG and Sustainability, Okta
Okta’s initial purchase was large enough to address its entire Scope 2 emissions footprint in the United States. By supporting the Bright Schools Program, Okta was able to create a meaningful connection for its employee stakeholders and highlight the tangible benefits of its efforts.
Okta’s purchase is an example of how organizations can go beyond “checking the box” with their renewable energy purchases and support projects with strong co-benefits, demonstrating that even a first step can also be meaningful to stakeholders and impactful to communities. Acknowledging that this is just the beginning of its journey, Okta is already looking ahead at options to address its international Scope 2 emissions, as well as ways to address its indirect Scope 3 emissions.
Protecting the environment has been a priority for ALDI for many years. In 2014, the company began implementation of its first international climate strategy, which included the goal of reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% per square meter of sales area by 2020.
In 2021, ALDI South, which includes ALDI U.S., went a step further and announced it would join the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi), committing to reduce its overall operational emissions by more than a quarter by 2025 as part of the company’s 2030 vision for sustainability. Additionally, ALDI has encouraged 75% of its suppliers to commit to science-based targets by 2024.
ALDI U.S. continues to implement initiatives in support of these goals, including integrating solar design for stores and warehouses where feasible, and procuring 100% renewable energy for all of its operations. ALDI achieves this through a portfolio approach using onsite solar generation, competitive retail supply contracts, and independently sourced unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs). ALDI enlisted 3Degrees to help evaluate its short- and long-term goals, inform the company’s procurement strategy, and execute its first purchase of renewable energy.
ALDI outlined several criteria to ensure its renewable energy purchasing strategy was a good fit with its business model. To this end, 3Degrees’ recommended approach needed to:
- Support the company’s aggressive U.S. growth plan
- Fit within its existing energy procurement strategy
- Mitigate potential REC market volatility, while providing flexibility to handle the company’s projected growth and any future changes to how it procures renewable energy
- Provide meaningful impact
Additionally, since this would be its first large-scale renewable energy purchase in the United States, the ALDI team was looking for support educating national and international stakeholders on renewable energy certificates (RECs), their role in a renewable energy purchasing strategy, and the challenges unique to purchasing renewable energy in the U.S.
How we helped
3Degrees took the company’s needs into careful consideration and created a tailored plan to deliver on the ALDI goals of meeting 100% renewable energy for all of its U.S. operations while mitigating risk and providing some long-term price certainty.
We began by engaging ALDI, educating key stakeholders, and completing a renewable energy options assessment which outlined the various paths that the company could take to achieve its goals. As a result, ALDI elected to move forward with a multi-year REC purchase that would serve as the anchor point for its most immediate renewable energy needs in the U.S. but still provide flexibility to explore options beyond unbundled RECs over time. Our work with the ALDI team also supported the business case for a longer-term renewable energy procurement strategy that balances impact and economics while allowing the company to drive rapid adoption of renewable energy within its operating footprint.
“ALDI has been investing in programs to protect the environment for many years now, and our commitment to our climate strategy is a significant corporate priority. We are thrilled to partner with 3Degrees on this unique, multi-year REC purchase, which will play an important role in helping us achieve our renewable energy goals.”
— Dan Gavin, Senior VP of National Real Estate, ALDI
Through its long-term REC procurement, ALDI:
- Is addressing 100% of its U.S. electricity load with renewable energy at a favorable fixed price in the short term
- Sets the stage for its renewable energy procurement strategy to play a pivotal role in achieving the company’s ambitious science-based target GHG goal
- Demonstrates the role RECs can play in enabling a realistic, business-conscious approach to GHG reduction
- Is able to make a meaningful impact in the national renewable portfolio through its investment
For natural gas utilities, voluntary programs are an essential tool to meet customer demand to reduce their carbon emissions in the near term. But developing and filing voluntary program applications is new for many gas utility leaders. The experts at 3Degrees developed a free white paper to help gas utility leaders understand voluntary program filing essentials and equip them with important information to design and file successfully the first time.
This white paper, “Improving Gas Utility Success with Voluntary Customer Program Applications,” includes:
- Essentials to ensuring a complete and comprehensive application for a new gas utility-offered voluntary decarbonization program.
- Ways to show the utility is prepared to navigate various supply considerations, including for renewable natural gas (RNG), carbon offsets, and blended programs.
- Insights to help effectively highlight the unique environmental benefits of RNG, including ways to strategically engage with stakeholders.
- A complete roundup of North American gas utility voluntary decarbonization programs, including details about current programs and filed programs pending approval, as of June 2021.
Explore this white paper to get the essentials your utility company needs to design and file a new voluntary decarbonization program with confidence.
Organizations around the world are increasingly focused on setting and achieving ambitious GHG reduction targets including net zero emissions, carbon neutrality, and science-based. However, with evolving methodologies and tools, understanding available options and developing a strategy for achieving these targets can be challenging.
This white paper, “The Evolution of Corporate Climate Commitments: The Role of Carbon Credits in Achieving Net Zero, Carbon Neutrality and SBTi Targets,” discusses:
- A detailed summary of the most common GHG reduction targets – carbon neutrality, science-based, and net zero emissions
- How these targets can work in concert to help achieve meaningful and long-term emissions reductions
- The spectrum of strategies and tools that can map to the various targets
- The role that carbon credits, including nature-based solutions, carbon removals, and value chain interventions play in meeting these commitments
Explore this white paper to learn how your organization can develop its own strategy for significant and impactful decarbonization.
UPM Blandin Native American Hardwoods Conservation Project
UPM Blandin Forestry manages 187,876 acres of native, mixed hardwood forests in Minnesota that supply timber to the UPM Blandin paper mill. The company is committed to sustainable management of these acres and the resulting products. Blandin’s SmartForestrySM practices protect the diversity of natural forest communities, align management with ecological regimes, and reduce harvest impacts. All UPM-Blandin Forestland is Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI®) certified and all Blandin products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC™).
In 2010, working with non-profit partners and the state of Minnesota, Blandin signed a conservation easement that grants public access in perpetuity, guarantees the property will always remain forest, and that it will be managed under sustainable practices. This sustainable practice improves carbon dioxide sequestration by the forest which, in turn, is credited under the methodology.
Throughout the span of the carbon offset project, the property will remain a working forest that produces sustainable pulpwood, saw logs, and other high-value forest products for the regional forest industry. The forest supplies 17 facilities in Minnesota, supporting more than 3,200 working families and hundreds more in related businesses.
Supporting Blandin’s conservation efforts provides important co-benefits for the local communities. This forest provides water quality protection, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities for the public. The forest protects a diverse suite of wildlife, including 30 miles of state designated trout streams, 47 species of birds, and over 30 species of mammals including black bear, grey wolf, and moose.
Dempsey Ridge: wind energy farm
The Dempsey Ridge wind project is located in Beckham and Roger Mills counties, in western Oklahoma, approximately 10 miles southwest of Cheyenne. The wind energy farm sits on over 7,500 acres of agricultural and grazing land. The project has a capacity of 132 MW, consisting of 66 wind turbines.
This project is also known as the “Big Smile” wind farm, named after an employee of the project developer who lost a battle with cancer.
Environmental and Social Benefits
The Dempsey Ridge Wind Farm provides a number of environmental and social benefits to its community and the larger region. First, the project provides enough clean energy to power 46,000 homes. Further, each year, this renewable wind energy source saves the planet from nearly 225, 000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
The Wind Farm also created over 150 temporary jobs during construction and the on-going operation of the wind farm has created 13 new full-time, skilled local jobs. The project will generate more than $20 million in tax revenue for Roger Mills County and will provide supplemental income to participating agricultural landowners through its 99 lease agreements.
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In this video from VERGE 2020, Dave Meyer, 3Degrees’ Director of LCFS Programs, speaks with Katie Fehrenbacher, Sr. Transportation Writer at GreenBiz, about California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and how 3Degrees is helping organizations take advantage of this program to reduce their transportation footprint and subsidize further transportation decarbonization.
watch the interview
As your organization works to reduce its international energy footprint (Scope 2 emissions) to meet corporate renewable energy goals, you need all the data and resources necessary to move the needle and fast.
Our I-RECs and GOs infographic illustrates the similarities and differences of these instruments and provides the quick resource you need to take action to address your organization’s environmental impact.