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.

Industry Analysis: Renewable Power to the People White Paper

As more states develop policy mechanisms for developer-led community solar, projects are proliferating. While some are highly successful, others struggle to sell out their capacity.

To help build this market, we conducted research to determine what consumers want in a community solar product. The research was designed to answer the question:

What community solar product design will attract the most customers and still be financially attractive to developers and financiers?

We used a conjoint analysis to have consumer trade off amongst various product attributes. This approach allows us to understand which attributes are most important and the impact they have on customer demand for the offering.

The report also offers insights into awareness of community solar and marketing messages that will resonate with consumers.


A Western Regional Electricity Market Would Be a Boon for Corporate Renewables Buyers

Wind turbine stands over green fields

An integrated market would drop the cost of wind and solar integration, and make buying wholesale renewables a lot easier

What would an expansion of the California wholesale market to a broader Western regional market mean for businesses looking to buy renewable energy?

We recently tried to answer that question at a seminar. After a stimulating discussion with representatives from Fix the Grid, Energy GPS, MISO, and Bay Area-based corporate buyers, our takeaway is that a regional Western grid would increase the opportunity to contract for cost-effective renewable energy .

It’s well known that the installed cost of wind and solar has declined dramatically over the past several years; Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis 9.0 quotes a decline of 60 percent and 80 percent since 2009, respectively.

This cost-competitiveness has been a driver of the increased corporate interest in buying renewable energy via physical or virtual power purchase agreements to support their sustainability or greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategies. The creation of a Western RSO (an aggregation of state markets in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and Arizona) would change the landscape for renewable energy buyers in a few different ways.

The creation of a Western RSO would change the landscape for renewable energy buyers.

A Western RSO would lower the cost of integrating renewable generation

In order to accommodate intermittent generation, the grid needs flexibility. Wind and solar cause significant “noise” in the energy system throughout the day based on the weather conditions that exist. In order to manage this intermittency, the system operator must create financial incentives for flexible and ramping products to help smooth out variability (i.e., natural-gas-fired power plants, energy storage, demand response). The operational costs of these flexible generation and load resources equate to the cost of integrating renewables.

A geographically diverse regionalized grid would increase efficiency and decrease integration costs. The amount of flexible resources required for reliability would decrease in proportion to the overall system size because the impact of localized weather events and the corresponding spikes or plunges in renewable generation are less pronounced when the supply and demand on the system are spread across a larger physical area.

Since RSOs are revenue-neutral organizations, operational costs are spread across all generators via grid charges. A decrease in the cost of integrating intermittent resources would result in lower operating costs for renewable generators, allowing developers to pass through a more competitive PPA price to the buyer.

A Western RSO would increase the value of renewable energy in the wholesale market

Once a seller and a buyer agree to a PPA price, the buyer reaps the benefit of the energy price and the renewable energy certificate price in the market. In CAISO, the value of renewables, specifically solar, has decreased over time as more generation has been integrated into the system. This is largely due to oversupply when the sun is shining.

FIGURE: Historical and Projected Wholesale Market Value of Solar in 2025 With and Without a Western ISO (WISO)

Historical and Projected Wholesale Market Value of Solar in 2025 With and Without a Western ISO (WISO)

Source: Energy GPS

Before significant solar capacity was installed, periods of high solar production were closely correlated with periods of high energy usage (hot days mean more air conditioning) and peak electricity prices. Now, with more than 10 gigawatts of solar installed across CAISO, the periods of maximum solar output more frequently correspond with low or negative wholesale prices.

The degraded solar value is problematic for businesses that may be buying solar via a virtual PPA, under which they benefit from wholesale prices above the PPA rate but are required to pay the delta when wholesale prices fall below the PPA rate. Within a Western RSO, it would be easier to move power around the grid thanks to alternate transmission paths, and renewables can become a cost-effective export during periods of over-generation.

Analysis from Energy GPS estimates that the average wholesale price for solar in 2025 would be ~120 percent higher if the West moved to a regionalized grid.

A Western RSO would allow for a broader array of transaction structures for corporate buyers

By expanding CAISO market constructs to neighboring states, physical purchases and virtual PPAs would be available to buyers throughout the Western grid.

Under the current grid structure, a business that is interested in purchasing Washington wind via a virtual PPA is likely to transact at the Mid-Columbia trading hub (one of two liquid points in the Pacific Northwest). The buyer would bear the costs associated with delivering and liquidating power to the trading hub, including transmission, logistics, and the bid/offer spread.

Additionally, the buyer would be subject to pricing at Mid-Columbia that is less reliable and more at risk of volatility than a hub within an independent system operator (ISO) territory; Mid-Columbia is an “informal” hub and lacks the formal market rules that come with an ISO.

Alternatively, a similar project in CAISO would face none of the delivery costs and would be earning revenue from capacity payments (resource adequacy). The buyer would also benefit from greater wholesale price certainty at a hub that is subject to ISO market rules (such as NP-15 or SP-15). If both projects started at the same price, the CAISO project could be delivered at a lower cost to the corporate buyer. Moving to a Western RSO would increase the availability of cost-effective transaction structures for corporate buyers across the Western grid.

As detailed above, the creation of a regionalized Western grid would be beneficial for businesses looking to purchase cost-competitive renewable energy and decrease their Scope 2 GHG emissions. When considering renewable energy purchases in the West, corporate buyers should also keep in mind that an expanded RSO will allow for a cleaner grid overall — integrating renewables across a broader geographic region can reduce the need for redundant baseload resources and support the shutdown of fossil generation.

With a regionalized Western grid, there will be more options for buying cost-effective renewables, and the energy from your utility will be less carbon-intensive. In our opinion, these benefits add up to a very compelling case for business to support an expanded RSO.

With federal climate policy uncertain, it is increasingly important for renewable adoption to be driven by cities, states and the private sector.

For more information on the Western RSO, visit

Originally published on GreenTechMedia

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The Climate Registry Affirms: RECS and Offsets are Important Decarbonization Tools

driving on highway

A small organization with a worldwide reach, The Climate Registry (TCR) is a non-profit that designs and operates greenhouse gas reporting programs across the globe and consults with governments worldwide on all aspects of GHG measurement, reporting, and verification.

Measurement is the first step

“Before looking for ways to reduce your climate impact, you need to understand your baseline,” says David Rosenheim, executive director of The Climate Registry. To that end, TCR has created a General Reporting Protocol that provides guidance and consistency in reporting on emissions and emission reduction or mitigation tactics such as renewable energy certificates (RECs) and carbon offsets.

Like its member companies, TCR annually measures its own GHG emissions. And, not surprisingly, given its mission, TCR is continually looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint. But with a large portion of their emissions coming from business travel, their options were limited.

The role of RECs and offsets in the decarbonization toolkit

First, TCR looked to reduce their emissions as much as possible, using tools and policies like video conferencing and telecommuting.  For those emissions that can’t be eliminated, the organization sees the use of RECs and offsets as a best practice.

Based on a recommendation from their policy team, in 2015, for the first time, they purchased RECS and offsets to cover their scope 1 emissions (these are direct emissions from sources owned and controlled by the company) and market-based scope 2 emissions (which are from purchased electricity, heat or steam) as well as their business and commuting travel emissions.

air travel

“With aggressive decarbonization goals needed to address climate change, RECs and offsets have to be part of the answer – efficiency is not enough,” says Rosenheim.

To ensure that the products are high quality and legitimate, it is important to purchase verified RECs and offsets from a reputable source. When TCR was ready to buy, they turned to 3Degrees and selected Green-e Climate certified offsets and Green-e Energy certified RECs.

“We knew our purchases in particular would receive lots of scrutiny. That’s why we chose to buy from 3Degrees. They are a leader in the industry and set the bar high in terms of quality and integrity.”

Small businesses are an important part of the solution

As a small organization, TCR’s overall emissions are relatively modest.  But big or small, what each company does matters, according to Rosenheim.

“Being a responsible corporate citizen is not just the purview of large organizations. Small businesses have an important role to play in combating climate change, as almost half of all private sector employment and output comes from small businesses. These businesses are making decisions that impact our energy and fuel systems. At the aggregate and individual level, it is meaningful.”

More on 3Degrees + RECs or carbon offsets

Better Business, Better World (Books)

shipping a package

Who doesn’t like getting a package in the mail? Whether it is expected or not, opening the box always carries with it a moment of anticipation. What’s unfortunate is that the delivery comes with a carbon price tag. That’s because no matter how it is transported, all shipping has some measure of carbon emissions.

So what do you do when you are an organization dedicated to making a better world, yet success also equals a larger carbon footprint? It becomes a balancing act.  

(Carbon) Balancing Workplace Demands
Better World Books

Better World Books’ business is to relocate books from one part of the globe to another and get them in the hands of new readers. Funding for this activity is raised by selling other books online direct to consumers. To reduce the carbon cost of all this transportation the team at Better World Books works with 3Degrees to purchase carbon offsets generated at projects actively keeping carbon from entering the atmosphere like McKinney Landfill in Texas. 

To make this work for the company there were two other key considerations: keep costs low so budget can stay focused on their mission. And managing the carbon footprint of all these shipments could not become an administrative burden. In response, the organization automated the process by building it into every transaction. The system is easy: a customer buys a book, pays a few pennies more and the book’s shipping-based carbon footprint is neutralized. Those pennies then goes into a pool that is annually used to purchase carbon offsets.

It’s wise decisions like this that have helped Better World Books become the global literacy player it is today.


Better World Books + 3Degrees

Once ready to purchase Better World Books knew they wanted to work with 3Degrees. “Their award winning reputation and work with Fortune 500 companies gave us confidence in their abilities,” said Diane Maier, Director of Global Marketing and Sales Support at Better World Books. “The fact that they are a B Corp too was a real bonus – we want to align our company with others that share the same values.”

Better World Books also supports renewable energy with renewable energy certificates (RECs), purchased from 3Degrees. Their combined purchase of RECs and carbon offsets in one year has an environmental impact similar to:


About Better World Books

Better World Books is a for-profit social enterprise and a global e-retailer providing products and information to socially conscious consumers. Better World Books collects and sells new and used books online matching each purchase with a donation, book for book, and with each sale generating funds for literacy initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. Since its founding in 2003, and Mishawaka, Indiana-based company has raised more than $23 million for libraries and literacy, donated 20 million books; re-used or recycled over 229 million books and achieved 44,000 tons of carbon offsets through carbon balanced shipping.

Corporate Power-Purchase Agreements: Proceed Carefully When Buying Renewable Energy

caution tape

A reality check for corporate and institutional energy customers.

Much like the rest of the clean energy industry, we are excited about corporate and institutional (C&I) customers taking meaningful action by directly purchasing renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint, contribute to cleaning up the grid, manage volatile energy costs and get in front of regulatory changes. Indeed, gigawatts’ worth of power-purchase agreements (PPAs) have been signed by organizations over the past several years. However, while we absolutely encourage C&I customers to dip their toes into the PPA pool, we advise that these customers do so with their eyes wide open. These deals are regularly framed as moneymakers, but we know from experience that there is little certainty in the world of wholesale energy markets and energy development is rarely black and white. Therefore, this article focuses on the many shades of gray, pewter and slate so that C&I customers can assess the full picture and take a long-term view when considering the potential value of direct renewable energy procurement.

The rise of corporate renewable energy procurement

In 2002, C&I customers were in the early days of exploring ways to “green” their electricity usage. The establishment of U.S. markets for renewable energy certificates (RECs) provided an important enabling mechanism for these customers, as well as for the broader industry. These markets created a way to claim environmental benefits and monetize the value customers place on the associated attributes of renewable projects. Even today, RECs continue to serve an important role in enabling customers to match their electricity usage with renewable energy. However, the market has moved in recent years, due to two trends.

First, many C&I customers are seeking to demonstrate a more significant environmental impact — often by bringing new projects on-line, a process also known as “additionality.” Unlike the carbon-offset world, where there are specific criteria for additionality, there is no legal or widely accepted criteria for determining what constitutes “additionality” for renewable energy project development. Commonly, corporate customers link additionality to directly causing a new project to come on-line. With this view, purchasing unbundled RECs (i.e., the environmental attributes but not the energy) generally will not have any additionality value. On the other hand, PPAs, both physical and financial, do.

The second trend is that C&I customers interested in purchasing renewable energy want to see a financial benefit. Purchasing unbundled RECs (or purchasing electricity through a green tariff) is a cost — albeit a modest one, and one without other commodity-related risks. However, solar and wind costs are at historically low levels, allowing for very competitive PPA pricing and offering an intriguing economic opportunity for C&I customers. In short, PPAs promise to reduce costs, as well as to provide a long-term hedge against rising and volatile energy prices, future REC prices, and any eventual price on carbon.

If you’ve attended a renewable energy conference recently, you’ve likely seen charts documenting tremendous cost declines in the wind and solar sector. And it’s true: there is a lot to celebrate across the industry. Onshore wind costs have declined 50 percent since 2009, while solar module costs have fallen 80 percent since 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Similarly, in 2015, clean energy investment ($329 billion) outpaced investment by oil and gas companies, and for the first time there was more solar than natural-gas capacity added in the U.S. With the extension of the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, there is significant reason to believe that high levels of investment will continue.

Amid this landscape of favorable cost and policy trends, it is no surprise that C&I customers are interested in renewable energy, and it is clear that corporate procurement is an emerging driver for significant new demand. Consider that 2015 was a record-setting year for corporate renewables: 3.2 gigawatts of utility-scale renewable transactions were signed by corporate buyers, and the capacity of wind PPAs signed by corporate customers exceeded that associated with utility purchases. Project developers, facing a slowdown in utility sales, have leapt at the opportunity to sell to a new market segment and are marketing both physical and financial energy products.

So clearly, instead of paying a green premium, C&I customers can now go green and save green. However, as these organizations consider entering renewable PPAs, they must realize they are entering the wholesale energy market and make sure to fully understand the potential benefits, as well as the risks associated with the potential value proposition.

A reality check

Despite the momentum gained during 2015, there have been only 430 megawatts of corporate procurement announcements through June 1, 2016, according to the BRC Deal Tracker. BRC noted that this apparent slowdown is most likely related to the rush of deals signed at the end of 2015 to beat the expiration of the PTC/ITC deadline, so we may see similar activity in the coming years as the PTC is set to decline. At present, though, we believe it is important for customers to proceed with caution and carefully consider potential opportunities, especially the ones that seem too good to be true.

Most corporations that have signed PPAs did so based upon the assumption that wholesale power prices will rise over time like a “hockey stick” (slowly initially and then faster later), but find themselves out of the money today. This concern was echoed in comments made by Brian Janous, director of energy strategy at Microsoft, during Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit in New York. Janous commented, “If you’re signing a [power-purchase agreement] deal this year, you’re losing money.” He shared that he had to go to his CFO and explain to her that the original forward energy price curves that he had shown were off. It is important to note that being out of the money in today’s market may be completely expected based on the pricing structure of the specific deal and the expected timeframe to realize the value from the contract, but customers must still understand the potential value and risks of proposed transactions.

The last decade has certainly disproved the conventional wisdom that wholesale power prices will go up forever. The discovery of large (and cheap) supplies of shale gas, coupled with flat or declining electric load growth, has created a dismal picture for wholesale power prices in the U.S. To put it in perspective, when we ran financial models for renewable energy projects 10 years ago, we benchmarked forward price curves against natural-gas spot prices at Henry Hub in excess of $10/MMbtu. By comparison, natural-gas prices today are <$2/MMbtu. In addition, as the grid continues to dispatch an increasing volume of renewables at low marginal costs, there will remain downward pressure on wholesale market prices, especially in areas with higher concentrations of renewables.

It is critical to understand regional differences across energy markets — particularly as it relates to the correlation of market pricing with energy production, and potential congestion and curtailment risks. For example, renewable energy PPA pricing in parts of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) territory are currently on par with market hub prices. However, financial models for such long-term PPAs will show varying valuations based on assumed forward price curves. So, if it looks too good to be true, question the forward price curve and other model assumptions. Often, these models do not take into consideration the gigawatts’ worth of new wind capacity to be added in the region of the PPA project, all ultimately generating at the same time in the same location, dramatically lowering the price during those hours. Furthermore, many models do not fully analyze the impacts of regional transmission planning and planned power plant additions and closures. There is a lomg history of overbuilding projects in markets where supply did not match actual load demand (e.g., the massive installation of new wind capacity in West Texas in the early 2000s required the extensive development of new transmission over the following decade in order to alleviate curtailment and negative pricing).

Recent events further support taking extra time approaching the virtual power-purchase agreement market opportunity. In May, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released guidance for the PTC that gives developers more time and leeway regarding the “beginning of construction” and “continuous construction” requirements and also favorably modifies several key factors of both requirements. As a result, customers have a little more time to execute wind PPAs to secure the full value of the PTC. The ITC for solar remains at full value until 2020. Other market changes — for example, the proposed California ISO expansion — could also have dramatic impacts on the cost of renewables in the West, as California-based customers would be able to procure from a broader market, taking advantage of higher capacity factor wind and solar projects from other western states, according to the results of Senate Bill 350 preliminary studies. Bottom line: There is time to heed the flashing yellow and still arrive at the desired destination safely and surely.

Take a long-term view and proceed cautiously

Thankfully, many of the early corporate renewable energy pioneers are sophisticated in their appreciation of the dynamics described above. Microsoft’s CFO recognizes that clean energy is critical to the company’s overall corporate strategy and told Janous to stay the course. They may not be making money today — though they hope to with time; again, this may be because the majority of the value from the deal is to be realized after the first few years of the transaction. Regardless, Janous’ comments highlight the importance of taking a long-term view. It’s also important to remember that PPAs or “fixed-for-floating swaps” were initially about additionality, hedging costs and locking in certainty and value, not about making money. It seems, though, that the rush to sell to new corporate buyers has served to morph PPAs from what is fundamentally a risk-reduction instrument into a get-rich-quick scheme. Instead, if these PPAs are approached, framed and internally sold on their key benefits of 1) cleaning the larger grid by replacing coal and gas with zero-emissions renewable energy, 2) offsetting one’s carbon footprint, 3) hedging against rising energy and REC costs, and 4) potential cost savings, and not as a new revenue stream, then expectations will be aligned with reality and risk. With eyes wide open, companies can successfully incorporate PPAs into their energy procurement and sustainability portfolios — while helping meet their respective triple bottom lines to be good for people, planet and profits.

More on 3Degrees + PPAs

This article was originally published on GreenTechMedia

Scoping and Mitigating your GHGs

An airplane flying over mountain landscape representing responsibility for GHG

Most human activities emit greenhouse gases (GHGs). The dramatic rise began in the 1800s with the Industrial Revolution and today many GHG emitting activities are considered essential to the global economy. However, that doesn’t mean we are powerless. Here are three steps you can take to mitigate and reduce your carbon footprint. 

  1. Conservation through reduction and efficiency measures. Local utilities and hardware stores often have programs and products that help you use less every day.  
  2. Choosing renewable energy. Onsite generation, direct purchase agreements or matching usage with renewable energy certificates are all ways to get the environmental benefits of clean power for the electricity you do use.  
  3. Balancing carbon emissions. Purchasing carbon offsets allow you to compensate for non-electricity based emissions resulting from boilers, vehicle fleets and travel as examples.

Counting GHGs

To get started we recommend you prepare a GHG inventory following the World Resources Institute’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol. The protocol recommends you sort GHG producing activities by Scope 1, 2 and 3 criteria. Doing so will give you clear understanding of where GHG emissions originate. It will also give you a sense of where you have direct control over changes versus where you simply have influence, such as your supply chain. The separation by scope also avoids ‘double-counting’ of emissions.

  • Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by the organization, such as emissions from combustion in boilers, furnaces, vehicles, and other assets owned or controlled by the organization.
  • Scope 2: GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the organization. Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where electricity is generated.
  • Scope 3: GHG emissions that are a consequence of the organization’s activities but occur from sources not owned or controlled by the organization. For example, Scope 3 GHG emissions are those associated with the production of purchased goods, employee commercial flying, or the use of sold products.

Once calculated you may be surprised by the size of your business’ carbon footprint. The good news is each scope category can be addressed:

3Degrees' GHG chart


What are greenhouse gases?

The health of earth’s climate is linked to how much sunlight is absorbed and reflected by our atmosphere. Our atmosphere acts like a filmy blanket around the planet, holding in some but not all of the heat. Some common atmospheric gases can thicken the blanket trapping in heat and cause temperatures to rise. These gases are called “greenhouse gases” or GHGs.


What Inspires your Environmentalism?

To celebrate Earth Day, 3Degrees' employees share moments that influenced their decision to work for the environment

In celebration of Earth Day we asked some of our coworkers what inspires their green streak. Here’s what we heard.



My tipping point was during a trip to Laos where we hiked to a remote village and stayed one night…

Valerie from 3Degrees is inspired by her trip to a village in Laos

Basic necessities, like clean water and septic systems, were all things that most of them had never experienced. They hauled jugs of water back and forth each day from a clean water source a mile away. Cooking happened over an open fire and candles were used after sundown. I realized that if something were to happen to their rice crop, not only would they have nothing to eat but also no source of income. In one night, I was enlightened and realized even basic water pump irrigation systems or renewable energy sources would absolutely change their lives and protect them from unforeseen climate changes. It made me feel incredibly lucky that I grew up where I did and want to do what I can to help to make their lives easier.




My interest in environmentalism grew gradually…

Jason hikes Pacific Crest Trail

I didn’t realize I cared so much during the 4 months I spent hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I just knew I loved being in nature. I noticed in the months after, when I was digesting my trip and sleeping on the floor of a New York City apartment, that the biggest adventure of my life was on a strip of land 2 feet wide.




Growing up in northern California, my family spent summers at a cabin in Lake Tahoe…

Megan from 3Degrees' summers spent in Tahoe with family inspired her to work for the environment

The days were filled with hiking and fort building with my brother. Year-round, this early appreciation for the wilderness informed my everyday activities, eventually leading me to study Political Science and Environmental Studies. So for me, there wasn’t a “tipping point” or ah-ha moment. I just never conceived another way to be. It’s always been my dream to help build a future where the wonder of our world’s wilderness will be protected, valued and accessible.




I grew up “off-grid” in a communal family arrangement in rural Vermont…

Gates from 3Degrees carrying a pile of boxes in front of cabin

So naturally, in my teens and early twenties I rebelled and sought materialism. Post-college, after a few years of 80-hour work weeks and New York City life, it felt wrong. So I quit. I took a low-paying job at a back-country lodge on the Appalachian Trail. One morning while baking bread for the guests at 5 a.m and desperately sipping coffee, I looked out the window at an under-cast sky.  I saw an ocean of clouds with the mountains peaking through and suddenly understood why my parents chose to raise us the way they did.




I’m an animal lover – and that’s what motivates my environmentalism…

Leslie from 3Degrees knew she wanted to help protect animals when she handfed a manatee when she was 15

I want our planet to be a safe home for everything we share it with: kittens, sharks, snakes, you name it. I realized it when I was 15 growing up in Tampa Bay. I had the chance to hand feed a manatee. Her mouth opened horizontally and then vertically. It was amazing. All my life I’d seen commercials and signs warning boaters to slow down. But it was in that moment, with the manatee, that I realized I should do something to help protect them too.




I grew up in Bluemont Virginia…

Kelly from 3Degrees was inspired to protect the environment after watching The Last Mountain

It’s in a region of our country where MTR (Mountain Top Removal) is a fact of life. Every day at home I was surrounded by beautiful mountains. I never imagined a world where they would be gone. Then I watched The Last Mountain and realized how close Appalachia is to a dramatic restructuring. I knew we still needed energy but I thought there has got to be other options. While majoring in Environmental Studies at VCU I interned at a biofuel company and quickly learned that other people want the choice too.



Sometime in late 2000 I met one of the authors of Cultural Creatives…

Lisa from 3Degrees was inspired to protect the environment after meating the author of Cultural

That’s how I learned that there are 50 million people in the US that care about health, environment and other issues that also mattered to me. I’d been working in investment banking and telecom but was ready for something more inspired. Not long after the meeting, I won a position at a green building materials retailer and quickly recognized that the building industry was a transforming market. Together the two experiences opened my eyes to a different, better way to approach business and that I could be part of doing something beyond business as usual.

REC Claims: Accurate Promotion of Renewable Energy

lone wind turbine on pasture

We all want more renewable energy. It’s a good thing. And we want to talk about its benefits. Renewable energy generators, sellers and customers want to promote their environmental actions. Generators should be able to say they generate renewable energy and renewable energy buyers should be able to say they’re consuming renewable energy. The goal is to do this in a manner that protects consumers and doesn’t jeopardize renewable energy certificate (REC) contracts.

The issue

When you sell a REC, you are essentially selling the claiming rights, reporting rights and environmental attributes (e.g. emissions avoided) associated with renewable energy generation. REC contracts are jeopardized when two parties are claiming the same environmental attributes — known as double counting. Accurate marketing by renewable energy sellers protects their REC sales and reduces the risk of double counting and consumer deception.

Example: If you sold the REC to Party A and the power to Party B, do not use language that gives Party B the impression that he/she is consuming renewable electricity or the associated environmental benefits. Party B has no right to claim any use of renewable energy. If you’re telling both Party A and Party B that they’re both receiving environmental benefits from the same MWh of renewable energy, then that is double counting.

The solution

Below are some best practices for renewable energy sellers that help avoid the risk of double counting:

  • If you do not legally own the REC, don’t make a claim about the renewable energy — where it goes, who buys it or who is benefiting. If you do not make a claim, there is no chance of double counting.
  • Limit the scope of your marketing statements so they do not exceed the RECs you are keeping. The scope of your claims should not overlap with the scope of your REC sales. If you want to talk about the benefits of the renewable energy, it must be done accurately. Do not claim to receive any environmental benefits of the renewable energy unless you own the REC.
  • Match the volumes: If you own 100 percent of the RECs from a project and are retiring those RECs for yourself, then you can make claims about consuming 100 percent of the renewable benefits. However, if you’ve sold some or all of the RECs, then your marketing claims should not exceed the REC volumes you are keeping for yourself.
  • Match the time periods: If you are keeping the RECs in Year 1 and selling the RECs in Year 2, then your marketing in Year 1 should not state or imply that you are using renewable energy in Year 2.
  • If you sell some or all of the RECs, then say so. If you put out a press release or highlight a project profile on your website that describes the renewable energy your project is generating (and this is a project from which you’re selling the RECs), then include a statement to that effect. By doing so, you won’t give the wrong impression that renewable energy is going someplace it’s not. For example: “Hotel Acme has solar panels that generate clean, renewable energy. Some or all of the renewable energy is sold to others.” 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for REC sellers is to be thoughtful about language use surrounding REC claims. Open, direct and honest communication between REC sellers, REC purchasers and electricity purchasers will help uphold the integrity of REC contracts.

Additional resources:

Powdr’s Clean Energy Initiative Meets Good Clean Fun

Snowboarder treks up the snow

With a mission to share, inspire and celebrate lifestyle and mountain sports, Powdr owns and operates eight mountain resorts located across the country. Understanding that the future of these outdoor spaces depends on a serious effort to stop climate change, Powdr supports a variety of carbon cutting and energy saving initiatives at their resorts.

Resorts have sacrificed revenue from selling plastic water bottles on location, commissioned a series of research on climate change and how it will impact the recreation community and created the initiative, Protect Your Playground, to fund ideas that further advance Powdr’s sustainability goals.

In 2015, Powdr partnered with 3Degrees to purchase enough wind RECs to match 100% of the electricity used at their eight resorts. With a mission to connect people to cleaner energy on a massive scale, 3Degrees enlisted their in-house marketing and creative team to design a campaign to:

  • Build the Powdr Green brand
  • Inspire resort-based marketing teams to talk more about carbon neutrality
  • Increase employee confidence on the subject
  • Give Powdr more value out of their REC and carbon offset purchase


3Degrees designs campaign logo and boilerplate

Our designers and writers conceptualized the look, feel and tone. The campaign communicates carbon neutrality as a brand ideology people should be proud of.


Campaign cover images designed by 3Degrees

We developed social media assets, visuals and copy, to communicate the resort’s investment in renewable energy to their social networks.


Powdr e-blast designed by 3Degrees

A template for e-blasts was created to promote the resort’s green initiative during peak sales seasons.


Powdr "ask me" buttons designed by 3Degrees

“Ask me” buttons not only prompted resort guests to ask about the campaign, but encouraged employees to stay up to date with Powdr’s sustainability initiative.


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