Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for dummies

Using Renewable Energy Certificates to reduce your carbon footprint
Guest article by Marisa Naudé, GreenXEnergy

The electricity that provides light for you to see by and power for your gadgets  all looks the same whatever its source,  but the effect on the planet of different types of electricity generation, varies wildly. The electricity generated from a renewable source may cost a bit more now, but in the long term it will cost us and the earth a lot less than electricity generated from a fossil fuel power plant.  

Similarly, an organic tomato and a chemically fertilised tomato cannot be differentiated. We can only choose the better tomato because it carries the stamp “Certified Organic”. These tomatoes cost a bit more but are better for us and the environment. Until now, that same level of choice has not been available to the electricity customer. 

Building a parallel set of transmission lines to connect the discerning customer to a renewable energy generator is prohibitive. But now, through the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) system, developed and endorsed by the Dept of Energy, you can choose to buy environmentally friendly power that is “Certified Renewable”. Every unit of Green Power generated is independently certified at source and its carbon neutral attributes made available to discerning customers.

The Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) system can be difficult to grasp. It means that, while you are running your electricity supply on the only energy supply available to South African consumers, the certificates enable you to tease out that small percentage of renewable power available nationally. You use certificates, rather than expensive power lines, to connect yourself to a renewable energy generator.

Every unit of electricity generated is certified as coming from a renewable source and the environmentally friendly attributes “stored” within the certificate. While the power is made available to the consumers in the normal way (at a price below what it costs to generate) purchasing the certificates connects you to the generator of your choice, via an auditable paper trail. You can now legitimately claim that you are consuming electricity that is virtually carbon neutral . The money then goes back to the generator, via a trader and an independent Issuing Body (IB). This provides the power producer with a secondary revenue stream that makes their business sustainable. You buy the certificate and the electricity separately. In combination they reduce the carbon emissions from your offices, your events or your homes and your need to buy carbon offsets is materially reduced.

The REC system has been used for over a decade in Europe, the United States and Australia. It is gaining support in South Africa as the Department of Energy assists power producers in developing the approach and local business and individuals become committed to green practices.

If you would like to find out more about how you can support green energy supply in South Africa visit the following sites:


3 responses to “Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for dummies

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