Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Renewable Energy Credits Called Out as 'The Ultimate Greenwash'

By Kevin Mooney

The Corporate Renewable Energy Index (CREX), a product of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Vestas Wind Systems, provides some insight. For the moment, News Corp. appears to be outpacing Starbucks in its commitment to renewables, according to the index.

News Corp. purchases 67 percent of its electricity from renewable in comparison to 58 percent by Starbucks. Researchers with the Cascade Policy Institute, based in Oregon, surmise that public relations schemes are at work. News Corp. is not exactly a media darling, while Starbucks has been winning points in recent years for its environmental posturing. In any event, neither company sits at top of the index. Whole Foods, Intel Corp. and Kohl’s are the leading purchasers, the latest survey shows.

But a significant percentage of the companies listed on CREX did not actually make purchases of renewable energy, the Cascade Policy Institute has revealed. In reality, they are purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs), which Cascade describes as a “fabricated commodity.”

“A REC represents the alleged ‘environmental amenities’ associated with certain forms of electrical power production such as wind or solar,” Cascade reports. “For those in the trade, one REC is created every time one megawatt-hour (MWh) or renewable energy is generated. Two distinct commodities are associated with renewable energy, Cascade explains. First, there is the actual electric output, and second, there is the illusive environmental benefit.
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