This page provides answers to common questions asked by consumers and participants in the Green-e® certification program.
Green-e® Energy is a consumer protection program designed to provide purchasers of renewable energy good product information, assurance of product quality and verification of product ownership.
Wind, Solar, Geothermal, certain Hydroelectric and certain Biomass electricity-generation technologies can be used in a Green-e® Energy Certified renewable energy product. Facilities producing electricity from these sources need to have been built within 15 years of the year customer purhcases the renewable energy. For further specifications on eligibility of resource and facility types and online dates, please see the Green-e Renewable Energy Standard for Canada and the United States.
Carbon value” refers to claims about the number of tons of carbon dioxide that a renewable energy purchaser would have consumed if they had purchased regular electricity instead of buying renewable electricity or RECs. Purchasing renewables lowers the purchaser’s carbon footprint, but may not reduce global carbon emissions. The carbon equivalency of renewable energy use is often expressed as the number of trees planted or cars taken off the road that is equivalent to the emissions the purchase would otherwise have been responsible for. Please refer to the Green-e Energy Code of Conduct and see Section VII.B. for Green-e® Energy rules around carbon equivalency claims. If you are participating in Green-e Marketplace, see that program's rules as well. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosts a Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
Renewable energy tracking systems and certification programs, like the Green-e® program, are complementary, serving differing functions in an electricity market, though often working toward the same goal with the same players in the market. Tracking systems provide quantitative information about a generator and generation, and certification programs add qualitative information on top of this. Together, tracking systems and certification programs allow electricity users to make choices about the types of electricity they consume.
Tracking systems use generation data to issue a tradable certificate on a digital platform, typically allowing all types of renewable generators (and sometimes non-renewable generators) to register and receive certificates. These certificates are commonly referred to as energy attribute certificates (EACs) or renewable energy certificates (RECs). EACs are traded within the tracking system, and when an electricity user retires EACs it can claim to be using renewable electricity.
A tracking system will generally give the system user a report showing the number of certificates retired, and other factual information about the generator, the transaction and certificate ownership. Tracking systems play ensure that the environmental attributes associated with any one MWh of electricity generation are only used to issue only one certificate, and that the certificate is retired only once. However, tracking systems don’t evaluate the environmental quality or applicability of a certificate. Instead, that assessment is up to certifications like the Green-e® program (or in some cases government programs, depending on the tracking system and the jurisdiction in which it operates).
Certification and labeling programs like the Green-e® program offer a quality filter and third-party verification on top of the quantitative data captured in tracking systems. The Green-e® program relies on tracking systems for part of its verification process, to show that a particular certificate is unique as well as properly issued, tracked and retired. Green-e® standards then apply multiple criteria to the generator and certificate, to help customers make an informed and impactful choice, and to evaluate whether they should buy certain certificates to meet their sustainability goals. Further, for electricity users that do not have an account in a tracking system, the EACs they purchase are retired on their behalf to ensure they can claim the full environmental benefit of that purchase.
As an example of how certification layers on top of tracking systems, a tracking system can issue certificates for generation devices of all ages, however, the environmental impacts associated with different generators may vary significantly and these impacts are not captured by the tracking system. The Green-e® program will certify the sale of certificates from a 5-year-old generator, but not from a 20-year-old one, because supporting newer generators helps send a market signal to build more new renewables. In this way, Green-e® certification helps an end user distinguish between the environmental “value” of two otherwise similar certificates.
Likewise, the Green-e® program doesn’t allow a certificate to come from a generator that is counted toward certain national or regional environmental requirements, to avoid double counting and to preserve the full environmental value for the certificate buyer. A tracking system might still issue and allow the trade of certificates from such a generator, because the purpose of the tracking system is simply to track the fact that the power was produced by a certain entity at a specific time, and by a particular fuel type.
Both tracking systems and certification programs are essential to allowing electricity users to make accurate and defensible claims and statements about renewable energy purchases, and to support impactful generators and market growth. Where tracking systems and certification programs are both available in a market, they should be used together to maximize the impact and value of renewable electricity purchasing.
Green-e® certified renewable energy meets the highest standards in North America: it must be generated from new facilities that meet rigorous standards for environmental quality, marketed with complete transparency and accuracy, and delivered to the purchaser, who has sole title. Green-e® staff verifies the entire chain of custody of certified renewable energy from generation to retirement to ensure that individuals and businesses are getting exactly what they paid for.
The term "Green-e® Energy eligible" has in the past been used to describe generation facilities that have had active Tracking Attestations on file with CRS. CRS has discontinued any allowance of such designations because such review was not a guarantee that a facility's output may be used in a Green-e® Energy certified sale and CRS seeks to avoid confusion with certified products. CRS does not endorse the use of the term "Green-e® Eligible" in any circumstance, including in wholesale and retail transactions. In cases where an alternative to "Green-e Eligible" is required (in supply contracts, for example), the terms "Approved Tracking Attestation on File with CRS" or "CRS Listed" may be used. To learn more, see "Prohibitions on Term 'Green-e Eligible' and Updated Guidance".
Can Green-e® certified RECs/renewable electricity generated in the United States be used for a valid renewable electricity usage claim in Canada, and vice-versa?
Yes. Green-e® does not limit the ability of buyers to use RECs and renewable energy to match renewable energy usage and substantiate Scope 2 (purchased electricity) claims, as in this example.
In general, U.S. and Canadian RECs are fungible, consistent with guidance for making credible renewable electricity usage claims as well as valid Scope 2 emissions claims within defined market boundaries (for example, see Making Credible Renewable Electricity Usage Claims and GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance). Market boundaries for renewable energy usage and Scope 2 claims are partially—but not entirely—determined by physical grid interconnection or consistent regulatory frameworks. Other factors that affect market boundaries can include governmental recognition, market participation, and regional standards.
With respect to Canada and the U.S., there are shared physical grid interconnections and compatible regulatory and legal frameworks, as well as a long history of attribute transactions, mutual recognition of REC instruments, and independent standards that treat these separate countries as part of the same energy attribute market.
Pricing is not a criterion for Green-e® Energy certification of a renewable energy option, and so Green-e® Energy does not have information on renewable energy pricing across the market. However, all sellers of Green-e® Energy Certified renewable energy products must provide pricing information to potential customers as part of their Price, Terms, and Conditions disclosure requirements.
Under current Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, points are awarded under the Green Power credit for purchases of RECs or renewable electricity, and Green-e® Energy certification (or equivalent) is required for all purchases from generators older than 5 years and whenever more than one year's-worth of RECs is purchased at once. The number of points awarded is based on the percent of annual energy use represented by the renewable electricity or REC purchase, and the period of purchase (10-year commitments earn maximum points). For more in depth LEED questions please contact the US Green Building Council. The latest Renewable Energy credit language is available in the LEED Credit Library.
Does my purchase of a Green-e® Energy Certified product allow me the use of the Green-e® logo on my website or printed marketing materials?
Not by default. While purchasers of certified renewable energy may talk truthfully about their purchases, Green-e® logo use is restricted to those participating in Green-e® Marketplace, a logo-licensing program for commercial customers that wish to use the Green-e® logo in association with their purchase. For more information about the program please see the Green-e Marketplace portion of this Web site. In some cases residential purchasers are allowed to display the logo in association with their purchase, though only through approved materials offered by their renewable energy provider.
Green-e® Energy Certified sales that are made in a given calendar year must be generated within the 12 months of that calendar year, the six months before the calendar year began, or the three months after the calendar year has ended. This creates a 21-month window of eligible generation dates from which renewable energy generation can be used toward Green-e® Energy Certified sales in any given calendar year.
Outside of Green-e® Energy, each program with rules about RECs will have its own range of generation dates that is acceptable. For example, some state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) require the use of renewables generated in the year they are to be counted toward the RPS, while others have no vintage rules at all and allow a REC to be used toward a year's requirements regardless of how long ago it was generated. Be sure to consult the rules of the programs you wish to comply with before making sales or purchases for that program, since there is not a universal set of rules for REC expiration.
I generate my own renewable electricity. Do I need to sign up with Green-e® Energy and certify my sales?
Green-e® Energy is a voluntary program. It is set up to protect retail purchasers of renewable energy in the voluntary market, and the most value that Green-e® Energy provides is oversight of the sale of renewable energy to retail customers.
Oftentimes a generator will choose not to sell its renewables directly to a retail customer, but instead sell to an entity that will re-sell the renewables in a wholesale transaction. Green-e® Energy certification of such a wholesale transaction is possible, but not necessary for Green-e® Energy to provide its consumer protection role.
The decision to sign up for Green-e® Energy should be based on the types of sales you will make as a generator, the cost of signing up with Green-e® Energy, your ability to comply with the Green-e® Renewable Energy Standard for Canada and the United States and Green-e® Energy Code of Conduct, and the needs of your potential customer.
If a generator sells renewables wholesale to a re-seller, that re-seller might sell those renewables in a Green-e® Energy Certified transaction at a later date. This is possible so long as the re-seller has a contract with Green-e® Energy to make certified transactions. In this case, the re-seller will need documentation from the generator in order for the re-seller to comply with Green-e® Energy verification rules. This document is called a Generator Attestation, and can be found at Green-e Energy Documents, along with other verification materials. Generators filling out a Generator Attestation should also read the Green-e® Renewable Energy Standard for Canada and the United States to ensure that they are able to sign the Generator Attestation.
What is the difference between a Competitive Electricity Supplier's renewable electricity program and a Utility green pricing program?
A competitive electricity product is renewable electricity sold by an electric service provider in a deregulated state, one that allows for competition among electricity providers. In regulated states, electric utilities are not subject to competition and may offer a certified green pricing program. Green-e® Energy has rules specific to electric service providers in these different types of states; see the Green-e Renewable Energy Standard for Canada and the United States. and the Code of Conduct for details.
I am selling a Green-e® Energy Certified product. Do I need to buy a certified product to supply my certified sales?
No. In order for you to be able to count renewable energy towards your Green-e® Energy Certified sales, you must be able to show documentation tracing the chain of custody of a renewable MWh back to the generator, as well as show that the renewable MWh meets all applicable criteria in the Green-e Renewable Energy Standard for Canada and the United States. The chain of custody and characteristics of the renewable MWh are checked during the annual verification process that all sellers participating in Green-e® Energy must undergo, regardless of whether you bought a Green-e® Energy Certified product to supply your certified sales. Buying certified supply is possible, but not required.