carbonZero Q&A

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Ecotricity carboNZero Certified Electricity

The following questions and answers have been prepared for consumers and businesses by independent technical experts who have been involved in Ecotricity’s carboNZero Certified Electricity.

The Q&As are designed to ensure all our customers and prospective customers understand exactly what is involved in carboNZero Certified Electricity and how to get the benefits of using Ecotricity’s carboNZero Certified Electricity.

Take a look at our certification reports and other carboNZero Certified Organisations here.

Questions & Answers

1. How does carboNZero Certified Electricity differ from other renewable electricity I could purchase?

Renewable electricity generation including wind, hydro and solar generally has much lower Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with its generation compared with thermal generation including coal, gas or geothermal electricity generation.

Some companies claim they generate from only renewable sources; however, they may also purchase electricity from third party generation who use coal, gas or geothermal sources which emit substantial amounts of GHG emission.  For more information about how much each type of generation emits check see our NZ electricity carbon emissions section.

Ecotricity only sources its electricity from wind, hydro or solar generation.

All types of electricity generation, including renewables, have some environmental impact including GHG emissions associated with the construction, operation, distribution and transmission of renewable electricity. The carboNZero Certified Electricity takes these life cycle factors into account as well as the GHG emissions created by the electricity provider.

carboNZero Certification demonstrates to our customers that electricity from Ecotricity is Certified carbon neutral.  That means that we contract through power purchase agreements ONLY from carboNZero Certified Electricity generation sources matched with electricity supplied to ours customer and audited on an annualised basis.

Hydro carboNZero product certification (PFS) follows international best practice. The PFS has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of ISO 14025 and is designed to assist organisations applying for product certification to comply with PAS 2050:20115 and the ISO/TS 14067:2013. The PFS has also been independently reviewed by local and international technical experts.

Further, the PFS is in compliance with an internationally recognised and accepted Product Category Rule for the measurement of emissions from renewable energy: United Nation Statistics Division – Classification Registry Central Product Classification (CPC) code: 171 Electrical Energy, 173 Steam and Hot/Cold Water Generation and Distribution Version 2.0.2 (2008).

Being carboNZero Certified means we measure all greenhouse gases we generate through purchasing electricity from sources including hydro, wind and solar.  This includes everything we can measure including concrete, transport emissions, the production of steel for dam or wind turbine manufacture, evn the paint used on transmission towers.

 

2. Isn’t my electricity already carbon neutral through the NZ-ETS?

No. The New Zealand Emission Trading Scheme (NZ-ETS) is a compliance scheme which currently only allocates one carbon unit for every two carbon units emitted and does not include organisation emissions including vehicle, travel and other company emissions.
The carboNZero Certification is a comprehensive voluntary scheme which includes one carbon unit for every carbon unit emitted including general organisation emissions from non electricity GHG emissions plus vehicle, travel, freight and office waste emissions.
Voluntary action including carboNZero Certification is however complementary to compliance obligations and therefore adds to New Zealand’s contribution to international climate change commitments in the following ways:

• Participating in the carboNZero Certification Programme empowers companies to measure and manage their own emissions and often results in product innovation and energy/ fuel efficiency measures that indirectly contribute to reducing NZ’s overall emissions profile.

• Participants in the carboNZero Programme offset organisation emissions that may also be reported by the NZ Government and other emissions that are not covered in national reporting, such as international air travel, international freight, manufacture of materials overseas. All of the action taken by participants in the carboNZero Programme is additional and complementary to compliance obligations.
Compliance with the NZ-ETS obligations by electricity companies that do not have carboNZero Certification does not result in their electricity product being able to be certified as carbon neutral for the following reasons:

• The methods for calculating the emissions and the “offset” required are different for the two schemes. Participants in the NZ-ETS report some or all of their direct (Scope 1 and Scope 2) emissions for their NZ operations as specified in the sector methodology. Participants in the carboNZero Programme with product certifications such as electricity, are required to account for all direct (Scope 1 and Scope 2) emissions plus the life cycle emissions associated with the production and delivery of the product including many indirect (Scope 3) emissions some of which may have occurred overseas.

• The units surrendered by companies as part of their NZ-ETS obligation are not equivalent to the offsets required by the carboNZero Programme. Participants in the NZ-ETS surrender one unit for each two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents reported, whereas participants in the carboNZero Programme cancel one unit for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents in their footprint. Participants in the carboNZero Programme therefore offset a larger footprint than participants in the NZ-ETS.

 

3. Will I receive “green electrons” when I purchase carboNZero Certified Electricity?

Strictly speaking, the electrons that come out of your electricity socket are never “green”. In reality, you can opt for a “green electricity” contract under which your provider undertakes to put onto the grid an amount of “green electricity” equivalent to your consumption of electricity through purchasing only from renewable electricity sources such as wind, hydro or solar.
carboNZero Certified Electricity is purchased just like electricity from any other source. Electricity is generated at a number of different sources and put onto the grid. Even though electrons from these different sources are co-mingled on the grid, electrons are entirely fungible, in other words they are interchangeable.

Many consumers want the ability to choose a particular type of electricity. This is achieved through a contract between the electricity provider and the consumer.

Buying carboNZero Certified Electricity is no different from a consumer choosing electricity branded as, for example, Retailer A; the contract shows that the consumer is getting Retailer A electricity when they pull electricity off the grid. The difference is that when customers buy Ecotricity electricity, it is 100% carboNZero Certified Renewable Electricity.

The difference also is that when customers buy Ecotricity electricity, they are supporting the generation of 100% carboNZero Certified Renewable Electricity which is matched and audited on an annualised basis. The more customers who choose to buy carboNZero certified electricity, the more likely other electricity generators will make the switch to renewable sources, thereby improving all electricity on the grid.

 

4. If I purchase carboNZero Certified Electricity, can I put zero in the calculator when I prepare my GHG footprint report?

You still need to use the national grid average conversion factor to calculate your GHG footprint for all public reporting.

However, if you are seeking carboNZero Certification for your own organisation or your own product/service, you are not required to offset the carboNZero Certified electricity that you have purchased from Ecotricity. This is aligned with international best practice including the latest standard from the international GHG Protocol which allows both the location based (grid average conversion factor) and supplier based (supplier specific conversion factor) calculations to be reported.

The good news is that this means that if you are seeking carboNZero Certification, no carbon offsets are required to be purchased by your organisation for your electricity purchased from Ecotricity. This can mean direct financial savings for companies seeking to be truly carbon neutral.

 

5. Why is carboNZero Certified Electricity important to me?

carboNZero Certified Electricity shows that the electricity provider has calculated and offset all the life cycle emissions associated with their electricity product. This includes the emissions associated with the construction of the generation source, its life-time operations and electricity distribution and losses to the grid.

carboNZero Certification provides customers and consumers with assurance, backed up by independent accredited certification, that the emissions associated with the electricity that they purchase have been calculated and offset according to rigorous international standards. The provider of the carboNZero Certified Electricity, in this case Ecotricity, must undergo annual verification to maintain its product certification.

 

6. If I purchase carboNZero Certified Electricity, can I use the carboNZero logo in relation to my organisation or products/services?

Only if your organisation or product/service has achieved carboNZero Certification, can you use the carboNZero logo. Using the carboNZero logo is making a claim that you are carboNZero Certified. Under the Fair Trading Act 1986, you are required to substantiate any environmental or carbon claims at the time of making the claim. In some cases, consumers may be able to display the carboNZero logo in association with their purchase; for example, on approved materials, such as electricity invoices, offered by the carboNZero Certified Electricity provider.

 

7. How can I talk about the carboNZero Certified Electricity I have purchased?

The important thing is to talk truthfully about why you choose to use carboNZero Certified Electricity. We recommend that you consult and follow the Environmental and Carbon Claims guidance produced by the Commerce Commission at www.comcom.govt.nz/fair-trading/fair-trading-act-fact-sheets/environmental-claims/

You can however make general claims that you are purchasing renewable electricity from carboNZero Certified Organisations such as Ecotricity.
Contact our SayNoToCO2 team and we can help you with providing marketing information for your company to show your commitment to a renewable future.

 

8. How does purchasing carboNZero Certified Electricity benefit me?

In addition to the assurance you receive that all the life cycle emissions associated with the electricity have been accounted for and offset against rigorous international standards, your use of carboNZero Certified Electricity may be recognised by other schemes. For example, you may gain points when being assessed by your customers, when bidding for procurement contracts, and when applying for other recognition such as through the Green Building Council’s Green Star Programme.

 

9. Is buying carboNZero Certified Electricity all I need to do to address my climate change impacts?

No. Using carboNZero Certified Electricity is definitely a big step towards addressing your overall environmental impact, but it may not be the only climate change action that is relevant to your operations.

The first step is to measure your own GHG footprint, understand which are your most significant impacts and implement an action plan to address these. Here are a couple of ideas to help you do this;

Take a look at our energy carbon calculator here

Check out how much you can save by switching to an electric vehicle here

Purchasing carboNZero Certified Electricity is not a green light to use as much electricity as you like. Energy efficiency and avoiding use of non-essential appliances is still important.Becoming more efficient could mean driving less, using less electricity, consuming less resources, composting, and reusing/repairing/recycling. The next step is using other renewable energy sources for non-electricity energy use (for example, biodiesel or solar water heating).

Using renewables and switching to electric transport are the best ways to avoid the negative impacts of fossil fuel use.

For other sources of GHG emissions that you cannot avoid, for instance air travel, using credible carbon credits to offset these emissions is an option. Various carbon credits are available, including from projects that are helping to restore New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity while absorbing carbon dioxide.

 

10. Around 80% of the electricity generated in New Zealand comes from renewable sources, so what is the point of having carboNZero Certified Electricity?

40% of New Zealand’s primary energy is supplied by renewable sources and only 62% of electricity generation comes from non thermal renewable sources (EnergyLink 2015). However, electricity consumption is increasing in line with economic development and there is a great opportunity to reduce New Zealand’s increasing emissions profile due to the use of liquid fuels by shifting to other innovative technologies such as electric vehicles.
The New Zealand Government is exploring ways to increase the uptake of electric vehicles. As consumption rises, more renewables need to come on stream in order to maintain and increase the current proportion of renewables in the New Zealand electricity mix. As explained in Question 1, there are GHG emissions associated with the production of all sources of electricity.

Choosing carboNZero Certified Electricity signals that you care about the source of your electricity and that you prefer an electricity source where all the emissions associated with its production and distribution have been accounted for and offset.

Help us take New Zealand closer to being 100% Renewable. It’s time to join Ecotricity.

REFERENCES
Commerce Commission. Guidelines for Carbon Claims. Fair Trading Act 1986. Published in 2009.
www.comcom.govt.nz/fair-trading/fair-trading-act-fact-sheets/environmental-claims

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