Author: 3Degrees Staff

At 3Degrees, we make it possible for businesses and their customers to take urgent action on climate change— providing renewable energy and carbon offset solutions to Fortune 500 companies, utilities, universities, green building firms and other organizations that are working to make their operations more sustainable. And as a certified B Corporation and eight-time winner of the EPA Green Power Supplier of the Year award, we’re primed to deliver custom clean power solutions that will help each organization make an environmental impact. Founded in 2007, 3Degrees is headquartered in San Francisco, California, with offices across the United States.

The Anatomy of a REC & Carbon Offset Purchase

customer-journey

Need help thinking through your organization’s REC or carbon offset purchase?  Here is a step-by-step guide designed to give you a better understanding of the process, so you can feel confident moving forward to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.

Want more information? Take a look at our RECs and Global Equivalents and our Carbon Offset Services Pages, or Contact us.

 

REC vs Offset? Which One and Why?

recs-vs-offsets

When making your decision to invest in renewable energy certificates, carbon offsets, or both,  there are some critical questions you’ll need to first answer. The graphic below provides a snapshot of things to consider when making your investment choices.

Want more information? Take a look at our RECs and Global Equivalents and our Carbon Offset Services Pages, or Contact us.

 

Reflections from Renewable Energy Markets 2018

REM 2018 renewable energy markets

Co-Authored by:  Amanda Mortlock, VP of Utility Partnerships, and Scott Eidson, VP of Environmental Markets

The annual Renewable Energy Markets conference was held recently in Houston, TX.  As usual, 3Degrees made a strong showing, with four of our team members participating on panels this year and several more in attendance.  REM always delivers an action-packed agenda filled with updates on industry trends and innovative programs from both the utility and corporate leaders in the room, as well as a fantastic opportunity to catch up with colleagues from across the country – and this year was no different.

REM covers a wide variety of interesting content in the two-day conference and it’s impossible to attend every session or provide a comprehensive recap. But our team divided and conquered throughout the event and then collected a few of our top takeaways. Here are the 3Degrees’ highlights:

The landscape in utility-offered voluntary renewable energy programs is shifting and igniting much discussion about how to grow and increase the relevance of these programs.

  • In states with high or increasing Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), utilities and regulators are wondering what a more renewable basic service means for voluntary renewable energy programs but customer preference is clear: customers want a voluntary means of driving demand for high-quality renewable energy.  Silicon Valley Power led an excellent roundtable talking about how they leveraged market research to make minor changes to their green power program as they moved their residential product to a 100% carbon free offering.
  • Utilities who are maximizing the value of their renewables programs are focused on both product design and successful marketing strategies.  Products are increasingly more complex in part to take into account the unique needs of each customer segment or even individual customers. Xcel Energy shared insights from their product design efforts, which led to one of the most successful and accessible green tariffs in the country, RenewableConnect.  Presenters at the Utility of the Future is Here session discussed trends in program marketing and customer acquisition ranging from digital channels and online marketplaces to new methods of leveraging call centers and strategies for small business outreach.  The bottom line: successful programs require good foundations and regular evolutions when it comes to both product design and marketing.

A few key emerging trends in corporate renewable energy procurement are helping to drive expansion across a range of sizes of customers.

  • At the top of the discussion list:  aggregation. The market is showing an increased appetite for aggregation, such as the deal that 3Degrees recently facilitated in the PJM energy market. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this model since it can help bring buyers with smaller energy loads into the mix; however, aggregation is still very new and there is a lot of room for refinement and simplification of the process.
  • In addition to aggregation, PPAs, VPPAs and RECs all very much play a continued role in corporate buyers’ renewable energy strategies.

In the fight against climate change, Scope 1 emissions are increasingly in focus with opportunities for both electric & gas utilities, as well as corporates looking to address their fleet emissions.

  • With the success and growth of renewables leading the way, many utilities, companies, and consumers are now considering how they can have a meaningful impact on their scope 1 emissions — enter electric vehicles and renewable natural gas.   Both are compelling in terms of potential climate benefits and each offers an opportunity for electric or gas utilities to create new and impactful offerings for customers that align with the utility’s long-term interests as well.

What’s the role of policy and voluntary markets?

  • As policies for renewable energy increase and carbon policies are introduced, states need to think carefully about how to ensure these policies do not constrain private investments in renewable energy.
  • Companies continue to be driven by desires to support renewable energy faster than state policies are increasing.

While these are the discussion trends that stood out to our team the most this year, there were so many other interesting topics explored during the conference – it was hard to pick just a few!  And the hands-down winner of REM this year? Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, talking about his Green Houston initiative, his involvement with the Climate Mayors, and the very personal way climate change has impacted his beloved city.  He was absolutely fantastic.

Thanks for a great time, Houston – and we’ll look forward to seeing all of our REM colleagues in San Diego next year!

Lyft combats climate change with every ride

Lyft-Carbon-Offsets

Funding emission reduction projects and catalyzing change in transportation

lyft-logolyfts-goalsLyft, the global ride-hailing service, cares deeply about their impact on the environment and the communities they serve. In 2017, Lyft announced their 2025 climate impact goals, which include moving to autonomous electric vehicles powered by renewable energy and reducing overall CO2 emissions in the transportation sector.  As part of delivering on their Green Cities Initiative in support of these goals, Lyft partnered with 3Degrees to look for both near-term and longer-term opportunities to reduce their environmental impact.

Key challenges

Emissions from the transportation sector are a stubborn problem. Petroleum-based fuels like gasoline are deeply embedded in our vehicle and fuel distribution infrastructure, resulting in large quantities of carbon dioxide and other tailpipe emissions. Lyft’s long-term vision for addressing this is an all-electric vehicle fleet powered by 100% renewable electricity – an ambitious goal that will take time to accomplish. In the short-term, Lyft sought to take immediate steps to address its environmental impact in a relevant and meaningful way.

Lyft set an aggressive goal – to offset emissions from all Lyft rides worldwide.

Lyft set an aggressive goal – to offset emissions from all Lyft rides worldwide. In its initial engagement, Lyft wanted to be intentional about the projects in which they supported, placing a high priority on projects in the transportation sector, near their major markets or in some other way relevant to Lyft’s business.

How we helped

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In collaboration with Lyft’s sustainability team, 3Degrees designed a program that would meet the above goals and have the flexibility to evolve and grow with Lyft’s business. Lyft’s initial investment used carbon offsets as a tool to fund emission reduction projects that result in tangible changes in the way parts of the transportation sector operate. The program also supported projects that help address other environmental impacts from vehicle use, such as water and non-GHG air pollutants.

The key elements of the Lyft program designed by 3Degrees are:

  • Environmental integrity was the most important aspect of the program design and a core element of every carbon offset sold by 3Degrees. Environmental integrity can generally be broken down into two main components: (a) “additionality,” the notion that the emission reductions would not have been achieved without the funding from carbon offset sales, and (b) rigorous and conservative quantification of the actual emission reductions achieved. All 3Degrees projects are registered under internationally recognized standards maintained by not-for-profit environmental organizations, including the American Carbon Registry (ACR), Climate Action Reserve (CAR), and Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). These standards require that project emission reductions are monitored and quantified on a regular basis and that this quantification and project additionality are independently verified by accredited third parties.
  • Reductions in transportation sector emissions played a major role in the project portfolio. Initially, this included emission reduction projects in automotive manufacturing and waste oil recycling, and in the medium term could include newer project types like vehicle electrification. Projects like these have a direct connection to the automotive supply chain (and Lyft’s Scope 3 emissions). Offset funding acts as an incentive or catalyst for actors in these industry segments to implement practice changes that are cleaner and more sustainable.
  • Positive impacts on Lyft communities take the form of social and environmental co-benefits (apart from climate benefits) in and around the markets that Lyft serves. For example, land use projects like forestry offer important air and water quality benefits that are more localized in nature than greenhouse gas benefits. Similarly, renewable power projects like wind energy help displace coal-fired power generation, which in addition to CO2 also emit mercury into the air and ultimately the regional water supply.

Leveraging 3Degrees’ experience in transportation and our proprietary project portfolio, the majority of Lyft’s initial investment supported one-of-a-kind projects in the transportation sector that have a demonstrated impact and the potential for scalability . This enabled Lyft to fund immediate emission reductions, like the Meridian magnesium automotive manufacturing project (see project spotlight below), while paving the way for new projects that leverage this experience.

“3Degrees’ ability to develop unique emission reduction projects with a high level of environmental integrity made them a natural fit for us. Their depth of experience, analytical rigor, and creativity helped us craft a program that can change over time and as our needs evolve. ” 

–Sam Arons, director of sustainability at Lyft

Results from initial effort:

  • In 2018, Lyft offset the emissions from all rides across the globe. This included emissions created while a passenger is in the vehicle and also those created while a driver is en-route to pick up a passenger.
  • Lyft’s voluntary offset program was one of the largest in the U.S. and among the top 10 in the world.
  • All offset projects were located in the U.S. and have local social and environmental benefits in or near Lyft’s U.S. markets.
  • More than 75% of Lyft’s initial investment funded emission reductions in the transportation sector from projects that are catalyzing change in the industry.

Lyft Initial Results graphic

 


 Project Spotlight

Carbon offsets lead to real change in automotive manufacturing process

The Meridian Magnesium project was the largest component of Lyft’s initial portfolio. Located just outside of one of Lyft’s major markets, Meridian manufactures magnesium-based automotive parts that reduce emissions during the manufacturing process and help lightweight vehicles and improve vehicle fuel efficiency.

Lyft’s support helped emission reductions at Meridian’s Michigan manufacturing facility. This project required an upfront capital investment by Meridian as well as a change in Meridian’s manufacturing process that, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is more expensive and less efficient than the previous process. Carbon offset sales are the only source of revenue for this project. Without it, Meridian would have no motivation to operate this project.

Meridian was the first magnesium auto parts manufacturer to undertake this change and helped establish a new offset methodology that could be used by all magnesium part manufacturers. The project was just successfully re-validated by NSF International under the Verified Carbon Standard, affirming the scale and scope of the project’s real and permanent climate impact.

Now, based on Meridian’s demonstrated ability to implement this change and fund it with proceeds from offset sales, 3Degrees is discussing similar projects with two other magnesium producers that have not yet made the switch.

More on 3Degrees Carbon Offsets

PPA vs VPPA: similarities and differences

Power purchase agreements (PPAs) and virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs) have been around for a while. But it can be hard to remember the differences between the two. This infographic provides an overview of the major differences. Need more depth? Check out our article, “Renewable energy power purchase agreements.” 

Want more information? Take a look at our energy and climate consulting services, our content related to renewable energy procurement or contact us.

 

The do’s and don’ts of marketing your renewable energy purchase

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For a variety of reasons, companies are increasingly buying renewable energy as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. After making this investment, many companies want to share the news of their environmental commitment with interesting stakeholders including customers, employees, investors, and environmental organizations. Done well this can help a company improve employee and customer satisfaction, garner positive press and enhance their brand value. Done poorly, a company runs the risk of brand damage, accusations of greenwashing, and may be subject to fines if in violation of federal or local regulation.

This white paper shows you how to avoid those pitfalls and provides clear, concise guidance to all organizations that want to accurately communicate their actions to support renewable energy.

Download the white paper to learn:

  • What is an environmental claim?
  • Who regulates market claims around renewable energy?
  • Guidelines for making an accurate claim.
  • Examples of potentially troublesome marketing claims.
  • Common areas of confusion.

The source of this white paper is a webinar series for the EDF Climate Corps fellows.  EDF Climate Corps is a summer fellowship program that embeds trained graduate students inside leading organizations to accelerate clean energy projects. We thank EDF for allowing us to share this content with a wider audience. 

Learn more about renewable energy certificates and power purchase agreements.

Or contact us.

Dempsey Ridge: Wind Farm Project

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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.

3Degrees + carbon offsets

Learn more about renewable energy certificates or to view other project profiles

Or contact us.

Scenic View Dairy: Methane Digester Project

Michigan state outline

Scenic View Dairy: methane digester project

The Scenic View Dairy has been operating since 1985. Owned by Brian Geerlings, this farm, which is located about an hour from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is home to approximately 2,200 milking cows, 1,500 heifers and 10,000 grow-finish swine. Prior to the digester project, as on many other farms, the manure at this facility was stored in an open lagoon and field-applied seasonally. Manure decomposes anaerobically in open lagoons, resulting in large amounts of methane gas, a very potent greenhouse gas.

With the dairy methane digester in place, manure is now taken from the barns and gravity-fed to the digesters where the methane is captured and used for energy production. The potential sale of carbon offsets helped make the Scenic View methane digester system financially feasible. The digester system was installed and first came online in June 2006. Scenic View Dairy was the first commercial facility in North America to generate both pipeline-grade methane and electricity from animal waste.

Environmental and Social Benefits

The methane produced from this system is utilized to generate electricity for on-farm use. Excess power is sold to the power grid for the use of the community.

Other benefits of the system include: utilizing the separated solids as animal bedding, reducing the odor of the effluent, and producing sustainable energy for the farm and local community (600 homes). The farm is also saving money on heating costs, bedding costs, and solids disposal.

For more info on Scenic View, check out this video.

3Degrees + carbon offsets

Learn more about renewable energy certificates or to view other project profiles

Or contact us.