New Guidelines to Help Improve Accounting for Energy Sector Carbon Offsets

Quantifying the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions benefits of renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects is now easier with the release of new accounting guidelines by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The "Guidelines for Quantifying GHG Reductions from Grid-Connected Electricity Projects," unveiled on Sept. 7, is a how-to manual based on the "GHG Protocol for Project Accounting," previously developed by the two organizations.

"Accounting for GHG reductions from grid electricity projects is complicated, but it's a critically important sector for climate change," said Derik Broekhoff, a senior associate at WRI and the lead author of the new guidelines. Broekhoff previously led the team that authored the GHG Protocol for Project Accounting. "Our hope is that these guidelines will nurture effective projects and programs involving renewables, energy efficiency, and other technologies that reduce emissions from electricity generation."

As concern about climate change has grown, one of the key challenges facing energy-project developers, as well as legislators and other key decision-makers, has been to accurately quantify the reduced GHG emissions that result from these projects.

"These are the best guidelines available to calculate meaningful numbers for quantifying emissions reductions," said Lars Kvale at the Center for Resource Solutions, a national nonprofit working to establish consumer-protection standards for greenhouse gas offsets. "This will really help energy-project developers and offset-program designers who do not have the resources to run detailed grid-emissions models."

Developers of wind-energy projects, for example, can use the guidelines to rigorously, credibly, and transparently estimate emissions reductions using basic data on local power plants. The methods described in the guidelines can be used anywhere in the world where these data are available.

The guidelines also will be useful to designers of "carbon offset" programs and other initiatives that give credit for GHG emission reductions from renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects. The guidelines can be used, for instance, to calculate how much carbon dioxide is avoided per megawatt-hour of renewable electricity.

WRI and WBCSD designed the guidelines to provide considerable flexibility in the choice of procedures and calculation methods, so they can be adapted to a variety of contexts. They are compatible, for example, with the GHG quantification methods for renewable energy under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

The Guidelines for Quantifying GHG Reductions from Grid-Connected Electricity Projects is the latest publication released by the GHG Protocol Initiative, which is the most widely used international accounting tool for government and business leaders to understand, quantify, and manage GHG emissions. The protocol works with partners and groups around the world to build a new generation of credible and effective programs for tackling climate change.

The publication can be downloaded at http://www.wri.org/climate/pubs_description.cfm?pid=4277.

Check out the archives of Environmental Protection magazine Web site for additional articles related to greenhouse gases and energy efficiency, including: "Mayors Agree to Improve Energy Efficiency by 10 Percent, Release Survey on Climate Protection."

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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