The International REC Standard: Interview with Jared Braslawsky

With the International REC Standard companies can claim the use of renewable electricity sources outside of the US, Europe or Australia.

Before the I-REC Standard, companies were restricted to the implementation of national or regional certificate systems, limiting the options of forward thinking companies to make a choice for renewable production technologies.

The I-REC Standard changed this in a way that allows governments, stakeholders and market players to participate in the implementation of a uniquely national but internationally standardized attribute tracking system for voluntary and compliance uses. In this interview, Jared Braslawsky, the Director of the International REC Standard, shares his insights about the I-REC Standard, how it works and the future.

Why did you create the International REC Standard?

Electricity purchasers see that renewable energy is becoming a cost-efficient alternative to fossil fuels. They want to invest in renewable energy and support the growth of renewable production stations. And at the same time they want to claim that they have consumed electricity purchased from a renewable energy source. In short, they are increasingly demanding greater influence on the electricity market.

With the right tools, this new bottom-up approach to the electricity market is powerful enough to negate the need for governmental electricity production subsidies. The national governments are recognizing this untapped demand for renewable electricity, recognizing the benefits of empowering the electricity purchasers to consume the electricity of their choice and working to strengthen the rights of the consumer. In Europe, this led to development of the Guarantees of Origin certificate, a tool that proves the origin of the electricity production.

The problem was that these tools were not available globally. To solve this problem, we worked with an international group of stakeholders to create the International REC Standard. I see the I-REC Standard as one of many links in the chain towards a more fair and consumer driven electricity market.

How does I-REC actually work?

With the I-REC Standard, we created standardized rules for electricity tracking systems around the globe. Governments, NGOs and market players can implement these rules to provide every electricity consumer with the same consumption options, regardless of where in the world they consume. In short, with I-REC we can extend these electricity product purchase options around the globe – adding another tool to increase the speed of renewables integration.

If no reliable tracking system exists in a country or region, the I-REC Standard board will put in place a tracking system adhering to the I-REC standard. I-REC is independent, unbiased and factual, it is only a service provider, not a market player. The I-REC tracking systems does not determine what is “green” or “sustainable” renewables, it only provides factual information, which helps the consumers, and consumer organizations, choose the product that is right for them. This is why I-REC would like to work more closely with existing consumer labels and environmental organizations.

EKOenergy is one of the environmental NGOs that has taken the lead and started cooperating with I-REC. They do this by “certifying” specific production stations as meeting the EKOenergy environmental criteria. We display this information on every I-REC produced from that facility. This increases the value of the I-RECs from that generating facility and the profit of that “sustainable” generator. We expect other environmental NGOs and REC certification bodies to do the same in 2015.

What are the benefits of the I-REC Standard for global companies?

There are three benefits with I-REC that I would like to highlight. The first benefit is that with I-REC, consumers have the guarantee of standardized claims across many different countries. The I-REC Standard recognizes that consumer demand can change the future of the electricity market. By enabling consumers to choose electricity from renewable resources, their voices will be heard. I-REC  makes it easier for companies to decide to buy electricity from renewable energy sources.

The second benefit is that the I-REC Standard simplifies consumer claims and eliminates the risk of double counting. The I-REC Standard assures that double claiming, double attributing and double certificate issuance is avoided to the same level as the European and US tracking standards. The CDP sustainability disclosure surveys accept the I-REC Standard, and I-REC adheres to all GHGP Scope 2 guidance criteria.

The third benefit is that with I-REC we reduce the bureaucracy in order for companies and individuals to do something as basic as “buy renewables.”

With I-REC, companies are for the first time able to buy electricity from renewable energy sources for their global operations. Until now this was not possible in a reliable and standardized fashion. This helps companies follow new initiatives, like the RE100 project, that intends to have 100 of the largest companies consume 100% renewable electricity by 2020.

Is this new system safe?

The I-REC Standard is as open and transparent as possible. Companies are invited to read the I-REC Standard regulations, also known as the I-REC Code Documents and to provide their comments or changes.

The I-REC Standard is a Dutch foundation with membership possibilities for all interested stakeholders in many (growing) working groups. The board members of the I-REC Standard are industry experts with more than 15-years of experience in attribute tracking from all over the world.

Most importantly, we separate the various roles of the I-REC tracking system to ensure each organization is adhering to their role and responsibilities. This is best seen in the clear split between the national issuers and the independent registry provider. They have independent roles and must provide documentation for all their actions. This split of the various responsibilities allows for simple third-party audits to be conducted on a regular basis, benefiting the reliability of the system.

If electricity purchasers trust the US-RECs system or the European-Guarantee of Origin system then there is no reason not to trust the International REC Standard.

So what lies ahead in 2015?

I-REC is moving fast and this is both an opportunity and a challenge. The I-REC Standard board must independently review each national situation before I-REC Standard certificates can be issued. Since the board is composed of only volunteers, we hope that the national governments will join the conversation to make the transition to a standardized REC system easier.