2016 Year in Review

Letter from the Executive Director

This past year was one of great expansion for CRS. We expanded for the first time outside North America by developing ties to partners throughout Asia and Europe, including growing our certification programs and the protections they bring to new renewable energy buyers, many of whom will be able to choose their electricity mix for the first time.

Closer to home, we grew our state policy work, actively engaging with state regulators across the country to help ensure the transparency and integrity of clean energy purchases. At the Federal level, we engaged with policymakers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, and others on rulemaking procedures for federal regulations, including the Clean Power Plan.

Our flagship program, Green-e, grew significantly over the previous year, with the latest Green-e Verification Report showing a nearly 20% increase in Green-e Energy certified retail sales. The volume of certified carbon offsets also grew 28% from 2014 sales under Green-e Climate. This Summer we released for public comment a document that will form the basis for developing regional and country-specific Green-e Energy certification standards globally.

While we are excited about the opportunities to help create and guide clean energy markets and the continuing success of our programs, what is most telling is the incredible growth of renewable energy use nationwide. For the third year in a row, the majority of new generating capacity in the United States came from renewable technologies, especially wind and solar, with coal production at its lowest level since 1978. Globally, the news is even brighter: renewable energy is growing faster than ever before, with over 60% of new capacity coming from renewables in 2015, led by countries that have long relied on fossil fuels and are finding the incredible plunging in cost of wind and solar (not to mention the immediate environmental benefits) are impossible to ignore. Corporate renewable energy commitments are driving many large companies to create new procurement models, and companies like Apple, General Motors, Google, Intel, and others are pledging to 100% clean energy while investing in their own generating capacity. This is driving new generation, new manufacturing, technical innovation, and the inevitable cost reduction, with solar falling over 60% since 2009. This is the tipping point: in many markets, renewable energy is cost-competitive with fossil fuels, and will only become cheaper.

It is our sincere belief that the genie cannot be put back in the bottle—that no matter your political stripe, the promise in remaking our energy infrastructure into one that is clean and eternal is one too strong to ignore. It will take manufacturing might, scientific smarts, and a dedicated vision to achieve this promise, but we have these in abundance already. We just need to decide that forward to the future is where we want to be.


Green-e Certification Programs

For nearly 20 years the Green-e renewable energy certification programs have provided a unique level of oversight to clean energy programs across North America, and assurances to buyers that they are getting what they pay for. This year the Green-e programs showed another year of substantial growth, reflecting the momentum of the market as a whole.

Green-e released the 2015 Green-e Verification Report in October 2016, which reported on certification data gathered from the previous calendar year. It showed certified retail sales in Green-e Energy totaling over 44 million megawatt hours, an increase of 17% compared to the year before. Green-e Energy certified sales have increased at an average rate of 13% per year over the past four years, and represents nearly 300 companies. The report also showed the highest certified sales volume ever for Green-e Climate, which certifies carbon offsets sold at the retail level. In 2016, Green-e Marketplace acquired several large commercial clients that are showing leadership in reducing the impact of their operations by purchasing renewable energy.


Green-e Energy International Expansion

This year CRS took the first steps to expand the boundary of Green-e Energy, increasing the value we offer in setting standards for environmental integrity and marketing transparency beyond North America. In March we released the Green-e Energy International Framework for Renewable Energy Certification, a draft document that functions not as a formal standard, but instead a framework that provides baseline criteria for developing Green-e Energy certification standards tailored for local markets. This approach allows for flexible implementations that adapt to local infrastructure needs and regulatory climates while maintaining the quality, rigor, and transparency of the North American standard.

In November we released the first regional standard under the framework, the Green-e Renewable Energy Standard for Singapore, which will allow Green-e Energy certification of renewable energy products throughout Singapore. The Singapore Standard will be released in October 2017.


Policy and Market Development

Since its founding, CRS has believed that to grow and flourish, renewable energy needs not just vocal advocacy and strong support, but dedicated policy expertise applied at local, state, and national levels. Where we provide assurance to the retail market through Green-e that renewable energy is delivered, we also help where we can in ensuring legislative and regulatory policy is on the side of clean energy development. Much of this is unsung, behind-the-scenes work that is rarely publicized, but it is crucial nonetheless. We are proud to participate in (and lead where we can) a wide range of policy guidance activities at the state level, with other NGOs and voluntary standards, and corporate programs and initiatives.

In 2016 we released a number of fact sheets helping explain renewable energy certificates and the greenhouse gas benefits of buying renewable energy, a series of reports on solar energy in higher education with help from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and several policy fact sheets. We also weighed in with comments at the state level in dozens of instances, including in the formation of Washington state’s Clean Air Rule (CAR) to ensure voluntary market set asides are included in the state’s cap-and-trade program and that double counting is avoided.


International Market Development

While continuing to keep up the pressure at home, this year we devoted significant resources toward expanding opportunities for clean energy development internationally. We focused on exploring renewable energy market infrastructure needs in Asia, with a special emphasis on Taiwan. In April, we announced a seed grant from Google toward this aim, and met with local stakeholders on trips to Taiwan, China, and Singapore. CRS also hosted delegations from China and Japan interested in voluntary renewable energy markets and tracking systems. As part of the seed grant, CRS also established a coalition of stakeholders interested in improving voluntary market infrastructure, encouraging policy changes friendly to clean energy development, and driving the creation of new green-power options for individuals and businesses (to learn more about the coalition, visit CRS Market Development: Asia).

In February, CRS Executive Director Jennifer Martin was an invited speaker in Instrumentos Fiscales para la Reducción de Emisiones: Diálogo con Expertos Internacionales (“Fiscal Instruments for Emissions Reductions: A Dialogue on International Experiences”), a two-day workshop in Mexico City organized by the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP), the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) of Germany. The panel was a discussion of carbon taxes and how their impacts can be maximized through an effective design, imple­men­ta­tion, and integration with other fiscal policy instruments for climate protection.

CRS was also proud to become official members of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Consumer Information Programme for Sustainable Consumption and Production, and the Clean Energy Ministerial’s Corporate Sourcing of Renewables campaign.


Renewable Energy Markets Conference

After more than two decades in operation, the annual Renewable Energy Markets (REM) conference continues to rank as one of the most important conferences of the year for stakeholders in the voluntary renewable energy market. The 2016 conference was held in October in San Francisco, and was the most successful REM yet, with record attendance and sponsorship, and an unrivalled breadth of speakers and panels covering clean energy policy, market activity, and trends. CRS is the conference organizer, and co-sponsors with the U.S. EPA the Green Power Leadership Awards, annual awards given out at a lunchtime ceremony at REM to innovative companies and industry leaders.


Looking Ahead

CRS began in 1997 with a fundamental belief in the power of individual choice. We hold firm to the idea that momentum begins with a single action, followed by another. Individuals make decisions that power collective action, which transforms markets and guides investment in the future. Governments have term limits, and their ability to make lasting change is limited. Our belief in the key role of renewable energy in solving the immediate problems of pollution, energy insecurity, and environmental justice means that to be effective over the long term we must sway individuals, who collectively are the market. We work to ensure this market has the option to choose clean energy—because we believe they will, when given the choice. No matter what 2017 and beyond holds, we will work to ensure that clean energy development and adoption around the globe continue to grow, and that every individual can exercise their option.