Modernizing How Electricity Buyers Account and are Recognized for Decarbonization Impact and Climate Leadership
To avoid the worst effects of climate change, the world needs to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach a state of net-zero emissions by midcentury. All sectors of the economy must follow this pathway, including the electricity sector. But the decarbonization of the electricity sector must accelerate, not only to mitigate a major source of emissions, but to also accommodate the electrification of other sectors, including transportation and heating. A fully decarbonized grid must be in place well before 2050. The pace of grid decarbonization is currently off-track to meet these timelines, and impactful policy interventions remain elusive.
In the absence of adequate climate policy, many companies and other large buyers of electricity have voluntarily adopted sustainability goals to purchase and use clean electricity in their operations. To date, buyers seeking to meet their commitments have catalyzed the deployment of gigawatts of new renewable (primarily wind and solar) electricity generation capacity. In pursuing such goals, buyers are guided by a clear set of standards and accounting methods and by the rules and methodologies of third-party leadership and recognition programs. However, given the critical need to get as much decarbonization impact from the actions of marketplace buyers as possible, it is fair and necessary to question whether these standards, accounting methods, and ecosystem of leadership and recognition programs are in fact fully aligned with maximizing the contributions buyers can make to address the climate crisis.