Late last month I had the opportunity to travel to Dusseldorf, Germany for the RECS Market Meeting, a conference that focuses on voluntary renewable electricity market and policy developments and is similar to our own Renewable Energy Markets conference. It is organized each year by RECS International, a Netherlands-based non-profit association of electricity market players that seeks to harmonize and open European voluntary renewable energy markets.
At Center for Resource Solutions, we regularly receive questions about how to use our Green-e programs internationally, and we have been growing our networks and understanding of other markets, particularly the European market, for some time now. While the European voluntary market is well-developed both in infrastructure and policy, national markets tend to take precedence over a pan-European market. Many of the issues the Green-e programs were created to address continue to be worked out in Europe, and are increasingly relevant in other parts of the world.
For example, on the first day of the conference I attended a panel discussion of ecolabels that largely operate at the national level. Many of the country-specific labels reported that sales and uptake were stagnant, however. Only in the past few years has a label, EKOenergy out of Finland, really started to actively try to serve multiple countries with a unified standard and certification available to electricity users across most of Europe. We’ve had good conversations with them starting at last year’s RECS Market Meeting and we’ve been watching how their standards and efforts have developed as an effort to counteract the stagnation.
Also, renewable energy tracking systems are generally more unified in the EU than in the US, but such systems don’t exist in many other voluntary markets. An effort to take the EU and US experience with renewable energy tracking to new markets with voluntary demand was discussed at the conference, called International REC or “IREC”. This system, where set up and integrated with local government efforts, should allow for new voluntary renewable energy purchasing to take place more quickly. While the system has not been launched, Turkey is scheduled to be its first market, largely to serve demand from LEED buildings.
There were many more issues discussed over the two-day conference, including national mandatory markets and looming issues they are facing (including lawsuits similar to US Commerce Clause challenges), wholesale electricity trading, customer disclosure best practices, and carbon accounting.
(As a quick aside, the World Resources Institute is holding the final comment period for its guidance on how renewable energy buyers can report the emissions from their purchases; if you are a supporter of voluntary renewable energy purchasing please take a look at their work and offer your thoughts by April 21; the discussion may seem like a lot to dive into at this point, but feel free to contact us for any guidance, since we’ve been involved for the past three years.)
I was encouraged to see a lot of overlap with the issues we at CRS work on in the US and positive developments since last year’s conference. We continue to see the potential for future collaboration to allow reliable and meaningful voluntary renewable energy purchasing beyond our current efforts, and we encourage interested parties to reach out to us to help move this forward.