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Why clean energy should be an American priority

When it comes to fighting climate change, WHAT we need to do is easy: reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. HOW is the hard part. Greenhouse gases arise from thousands of activities, large and small.

For some activities, reductions are straightforward: electric cars will make a big difference, for example. For other activities, reductions are difficult, or prohibitively expensive, or impossible: we are going to continue to travel, and airliners burn lots of jet fuel with no workable alternative.

The sensible approach is to find activities where we can focus our efforts and get the most bang-for-the-buck. The activities we focus on need to be large producers of greenhouse gases, where reductions are meaningful in the overall effort—adding pool covers in California don’t count. And reductions need to be practical, both the economics and the technology have to work.

Nothing fills that bill better than the American electrical grid. Even with the solid advances that have been made, it is still an enormous producer of greenhouse gases—more than a quarter of all US emissions.

To put that in perspective, the generation of electric power in the United States in 2018 produced more greenhouse gases than every car on the road, every airplane in the air, and every train on the tracks, all taken together.

The electric grid not only has the scope we need; replacing fossil fuel generation with renewables is also economically and technologically practical. The cost of solar is competitive with other newly-constructed generation, and the technology is mature and continues to improve.

While a lot had been written and discussed about the growth of solar in the electrical grid, it still produces only a tiny fraction of the power generated, about 1.5% in 2018. Most of that is concentrated in a few places, most notably California. In many of the large industrial states, with high power demands, solar is still irrelevant: Ohio, 0.35%, Pennsylvania, 0.36%; Illinois, 0.17%.

This is low-hanging fruit. We need to use every practical approach we have available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New approaches to adding solar energy in our nation’s electric grid can be a potent weapon.

Clearloop has developed an innovative way to do just that, and to do it in places where it will do the most good—our Carbon Mortgage concept. Corporate America is leading the fight against global warming today, and our mission is to give them an especially effective weapon so do so.

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Disarming ourselves in the fight against climate change

We know how to limit global warming: big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s an urgent problem, and an important question to ask is where we can find in our complex economy the biggest, quickest, easiest cuts? Where’s the low-hanging fruit?

Looked at that way, one answer stands out: electric power generation from fossil fuels.

Even with the progress we already have made, the grid is still responsible for over a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. Continued progress in reducing this footprint is not a given; as we electrify ground transportation, for example, electrical demand could increase by more than a third.

Renewable energy should be a potent weapon fighting climate change. But experts we trust to help fight global warming are instead disarming us. They’ve built a carbon accounting framework that breaks the deep connection between renewable energy and carbon reduction.

Our electricity grid has an enormous carbon footprint now, but it’s not crazy to imagine that it could approach zero-carbon in the next few decades. With renewables, nuclear power and some technological advances in storage, America could eliminate burning fossil fuels for electricity.

With that tantalizing possibility on the horizon, we should push the accelerator to the floor decarbonizing the grid. Instead, in multiple ways we’ve put on the brakes. Two examples stand out:

Green power. Corporations and individuals have shown a hunger for renewable power — it’s the most visible and widely used climate action of all. Yet we’ve created a system for measuring and crediting green power that ensures well-intentioned corporations often just spin their wheels.

The EPA’s Green Partner Power List celebrates several well-known companies for using 100 percent green power. But for most of them, the vast majority of their “green power” is nothing more than the wholesale purchase of commodity renewable energy credits, or RECs.

We’re deceiving ourselves: Those RECs come from old solar and wind projects, already built, or even from hydropower dams constructed decades ago. The billions of kilowatt-hours labeled green power make us feel good, but they do nothing to reduce carbon emissions today or in the future; they do exactly nothing to affect climate change.

Carbon offsets. America is fortunate in having many companies committed to reducing and ultimately eliminating their carbon footprint. They start with their own operations, but in the real world they reach a point of diminishing returns and need to look to carbon offsets, investing to eliminate carbon emissions somewhere outside of their own operations.

Through the looking glass

Adding more renewable power to the grid is a particularly effective way to offset carbon. The technology is mature and continues to improve, the economics work and the grid is big enough to absorb huge amounts of investment. As a bonus, that investment builds important American infrastructure, creating jobs and tax base here at home.

Yet in the sometimes Alice in Wonderland world of carbon accounting rules, the use of renewable energy to offset carbon emissions isn’t encouraged, it’s forbidden. The rules push away well-intentioned companies from investing in American infrastructure and jobs; they push them instead into a murky world of purchasing trees from landowners in foreign countries.

A damaging myth is taking hold as gospel in sustainability circles: The country’s electric grid is already on the fast track to decarbonization. Problem solved. Move on.

Decarbonizing the grid is not a solved problem. Our success so far has come from three approaches that quickly run into limits:

  • The first has been the replacement of coal with natural gas. This is a worthwhile intermediate step, but natural gas is still a nonrenewable fossil fuel with a significant carbon footprint, about half that of coal.
  • The second approach has been the imposition of regulatory controls in a few states, particularly California. But in vast areas of the country, including our nation’s capital, a strong regulatory approach is unlikely to emerge.
  • The third approach has been the willingness of some organizations to sign long-term power purchase agreements, or PPAs, for new renewable power. This option is confined to a thin tier of the biggest and wealthiest organizations. For every Facebook or Amazon signing PPAs, thousands of others don’t have the financial profile or credit rating to do so.
  • Right now, we need a robust system of carbon offsets to complement — not replace — what companies are doing in their own operations. Investing in adding renewable power to the American electric grid would be an effective and constructive way to create these offsets.

For the past year, we’ve been working on a way to accomplish this. We build new solar arrays here in the United States and then use the electrical power generated to replace power that otherwise would have been generated by burning fossil fuels. Our approach ensures that these solar farms are truly additional and located in the most carbon-intensive parts of the grid. If you want to reduce carbon emissions, it makes a lot of difference whether you add renewable power to the low-carbon New England or the high-carbon Midwest power grid.

American businesses have become the front line of the fight against climate change. We’re attempting to create an innovative and practical tool for them. What we have developed is transparent, it is financially attractive to a wide range of businesses and it invests in America. Businesses we’ve presented these ideas to are intrigued and interested.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, America will be rethinking a lot of things. How to create more honest, real-world and effective weapons in the fight against global warming should be one of them.

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Carbon Mortgage: A Fresh Approach to Attacking Climate Change

This week, I’d like to introduce you to Clearloop, the company that Bob Corney, Laura Zapata and I have started.  Our mission is to fight climate change on a large scale by creating a new, second-generation carbon offset:  we call it a “carbon mortgage”.

Our carbon mortgage is different from and superior to the so-called “natural” offsets that predominate today.  These natural offsets basically consist of buying trees somewhere, often not in the United States, to try to capture carbon.  Instead, Clearloop’s second-generation approach offsets unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions by building new solar arrays right here in the United States. We then use the electrical power generated to replace power that would have otherwise been generated by burning fossil fuels—avoiding carbon from being created in the first place.

Here’s why we call this a carbon mortgage:  if you want to purchase a home, you will likely take out a mortgage from a bank and then pay that mortgage back in monthly installments over time.  Most people can’t simply write a check for their house; a mortgage from the bank makes the purchase of a home realistic and accessible.

Similarly, companies always have some greenhouse gas emissions that they can’t eliminate.  We give them a way to take out a carbon mortgage:  they “borrow” through Clearloop the atmospheric carbon capacity they unfortunately need to use now but then pay it back in installments over time, over the life of the solar capacity we create.  Just as with a homeowner’s mortgage, the “borrow and pay back in installments” structure makes possible larger, more numerous and more creative investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the current “cash-up-front” approach.

To see in more detail how this works, let’s take as an example how a company would approach offsetting the footprint of a gallon of gasoline:

  • That gallon of gasoline has a carbon footprint of about 20 pounds of CO2.
  • To create the offset for that 20 pounds of CO2, Clearloop builds about one-fifth of a watt of solar capacity as part of a much larger project.  This is about one square inch of solar panel.
  • We charge the company a fraction of the cost of that square inch of panel, the rest is paid for by the revenues it receives selling the electricity it produces.
  • This is new solar capacity, which would not have otherwise been built.
  • Over its 30+ year life, this square inch of solar panel will conservatively generate about 56,000 watt-hours of electrical power, which is sold into the grid.
  • That new solar power has a zero-carbon footprint and replaces electricity which would have otherwise been generated with fossil fuel, producing 20 pounds of CO2 in the process.  Twenty pounds borrowed now; twenty pounds paid back in installments over time.

This approach addresses a real-world problem that climate purists tend to gloss over.

When a company wants to do its part to address climate change, there is no question that the first thing it ought to do is reduce its own emissions wherever it can.  But as a practical matter, that reduction in its own operations has economic limits and is sometimes impossible.  Think of air travel:  people are going to travel, airplanes burn a lot of jet fuel, and there is no realistic alternative to that jet fuel likely to be available anytime soon.

Once a company has done everything practical to reduce its own footprint, it must then turn to offsets to deal with its residual emissions—―investing in greenhouse gas reductions in areas outside of its own operations.

There is no better place to create these offsets than electric power generation.  Clearloop and its carbon mortgage offers a powerful and practical way to do this, creating jobs, tax base and important national infrastructure in the process.

Remember: there are a lot more and bigger houses today than there would ever be if there were no such thing as a bank mortgage.  And now there can be a lot more and bigger attacks on climate change with a carbon mortgage.

Earth Day Clearloop 2020

Honor Earth Day: Go Big On Climate Change

Today is Earth Day, the largest secular celebration on the planet.  The theme this year is climate action and the organizers are asking citizens of the world to step up and be creative, innovative, ambitious and brave to seize a zero-carbon future. And today—on Earth Days 50th birthdayI’d like to add to their challenge one more wordbe effective.   

Al Gore works tirelessly to tell the world the “inconvenient truth” of global warming.  But there’s another inconvenient truth as well:  despite the urgency, we’re still nibbling around the edges of greenhouse gas reduction.  Plant-based burgers, LED bulbs and more Zoom meetings are all fine; they help with awareness and every little bit counts.  But their impact on greenhouse gas emissions disappears in the rounding.  It’s past time to move beyond little incremental improvements and do something both practical and big.   

As with most problems, the place to start is to ask the right question: “Where do I look for the biggest, fastest and easiest greenhouse gas reductions?  While every company should do what it can to reduce its own emissions, companies vary widely on how far they can go.  Many reach the point of diminishing returns quickly. Airlines burn jet fuel, and there is no realistic alternative anytime soon.  Companies that make concrete and steel need process heat, and there is no realistic alternative. And on and on. 

Every company needs to take responsibility for its carbon footprint, but many, as a practical matter, will have to do it by investing and creating impact in places other than their own organizations.  That makes sense:  you don’t beat a dead horse when there are good healthy ones hanging around waiting to be ridden.

When you ask the right question, “Where is the low-hanging fruit?”, the answer is right in front of you:  electric power generation.  

Even after all the wind and solar we’ve built, after the conversions from coal to natural gas, it is still 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in our country.  In the years to come, with the increasing electrification of transportation, that’s going to grow.  Unlike any other major sector of our economy, it is realistic to think of power generation being a zero-carbon activity in next two or three decades.  With renewables, nuclear power and some technological advances in storage, America can eliminate the burning of fossil fuels for electrical power.  

Laura Zapata, Bob Corney and I have started a company to help move this along:  Clearloop.  It offers a fresh approach to carbon offsets:  building solar farms to replace electric power generated from fossil fuels with clean, renewable solar power.  The best approach to mitigating carbon is not to try to drag it back out of the atmosphere and store it temporarily in trees, it’s to stop taking it out of the ground in the first place. 

Our next step is to convince the NGOs who monitor and credit carbon to accept and welcome this new tool to combat climate change.  That has frankly proven more difficult than I would ever have imagined.  I don’t know how many times we’ve heard from them, “The science is sound, we agree it works, but it’s not in our rulebook, sorry.”  Who would have thought that so many well-intentioned people, committed to fighting climate change, would suddenly start acting like entrenched government bureaucrats whose answer to anything new and different is “no”? 

There’s good news though. Businesses we’ve talked to are intrigued and interested.  They find the Clearloop approach more transparent and measurable than natural solutions.  For many, the economics are better.  And they love the fact that it invests their money right here in the United States, creating jobs, tax base, and improving our electrical infrastructure. 

Many of America’s corporationsdespite their profit motive and responsibility to shareholders, have placed themselves on the front lines fighting climate change. Clearloop’s mission in the years ahead is simple: help them. 

How ‘emissionality’ brings renewable energy investment and jobs to coal country

These have been dark days for job-hunters in coal country, even when the sun’s shining. Fortunately there’s new potential now that more clean energy jobs could be on the way in communities feeling the impacts of coal’s decline — both directly and indirectly. A new renewable investment principle, “emissionality,” is inspiring investors to look not only at the baseline view of how much wind and solar is being added to the grid, but also at the deeper impact of where it’s being added. And this strategic shift could have a major impact in coal country, as well as other often-red states that may not have seen as much renewable investment as their blue-state neighbors.

The deepening climate crisis has been motivating venture leaders to step up their renewables procurement programs. This is especially true of major corporations and increasingly of public-sector and higher education organizations, too. For example, between Jan. 1 and Aug. 28, 2019, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance tracked 3.80 GW of power purchase agreements (PPAs) and similar deals for large-scale, off-site renewable energy, with 38 projects contracted by 25 companies across more than a dozen states. This follows a record-setting 2018, during which corporations contracted more than 6 GW of big wind and solar.

Such investments are helping drive clean energy job growth in many local economies, with clean sector jobs flourishing in blue states, particularly those with existing renewables. California, for instance, is home to one out of every seven clean energy jobs in the United States today. And as blue states adopt more-ambitious climate laws, they only create more natural pathways for continued clean sector investment in a virtuous self-reinforcing feedback loop.

A few red states have also fared well in the clean energy revolution — note the positive momentum wind energy has seen in Texas and the High Plains (especially in the Southwest Power Pool balancing area). But more often than not, many traditionally red states have been left behind by large-scale renewable investment. According to the Solar Foundation’s 2018 Solar Jobs Census, red states rank amongst the lowest in the country, with coal-capital West Virginia clocking in at 49th in terms of solar jobs per capita, and Kentucky, at 42nd. Their neighbor to the south, Tennessee, fairs better at 16th. But blue and purple states overall still account for 7 of the top 10 for solar jobs.

It’s going to take more than just favorable state policy to change this dynamic and expand the playing field to areas that could also benefit, and support, the transition to a nationwide clean energy economy. And that’s where emissionality comes in.

To understand how this new principle will help bring additional investment — and in turn, job opportunities — to underlooked areas, it’s useful to begin with a closer look at what we mean by emissionality.

Emissionality 101: Why it matters where clean energy is added

Unlike the traditional procurement approach of treating all renewable energy as equal, the truth is that where you build projects matters. Is a new wind farm being added where the grid is already saturated with wind and solar? Or, is a new renewable energy project being built in a location such that it displaces fossil-fueled coal- and gas-fired generation?

Asking such questions can drive up the positive impact of corporate renewable energy procurement by prompting investors to quantify the fossil-fueled emissions a given wind or solar project will displace on the regional electricity grid. After all, it stands to reason that investing in a region where the supply is mostly dirty coal-fired generation will naturally displace more emissions than in a region whose grid mix is already rich in wind or solar.

But data shows this is more than intuitive conjecture. My colleagues and I found that, by geographically redistributing annual corporate wind and solar procurement to optimize locations for avoided emissions, corporations could wrangle 34% more avoided emissions out of those same renewable investments. Using 2017’s procurement data, these investments could avert an additional 2.5 million metric tons of emissions — the equivalent of pulling more than 540,000 cars off the road. This is possible while holding total megawatts of new wind and solar constant, simply by better siting where we build new projects to displace more fossil-fueled generation.

In other words, the team found that some renewable investments in this realm do mean more than others on an emissions basis. Here’s a case in point: By leveraging WattTime’s real-time data on emissions profiles for nationwide power plants, Boston University learned that investing in a renewable energy project in South Dakota would have two- to three-times more positive emissions impact than a project anywhere in New England could.

BU was an early adopter, but there’s promising evidence that emissionality is gaining momentum further afield, too.

In Tennessee, for instance, startup Clearloop is rewriting the playbook to offer renewables-based emissions offsets at the product level, rather than the industry norm of providing renewable PPAs on a straightforward MWh basis against the organization’s overall electricity consumption.

Founded by three Tennesseans, including former governor Phil Bredesen, Clearloop aims to bring the benefits of renewable energy to all communities around the country equally, particularly those “in our own backyard that are getting left behind.”

Corporations seeking to become 100% renewably powered typically look at their total MWh of annual electricity consumption, and then invest in wind and solar PPAs such that the generation output of those new renewable energy projects fully offsets corporate electricity use. Clearloop takes a different approach, by allowing companies to offset their climate impact on a product level and doing so on an emissions basis (rather than a MWh basis). In order to give their customers the best deal (the most avoided emissions per renewable energy dollar invested), this naturally lends itself to putting emissionality into practice.

And that ends up serendipitously shining a spotlight on Clearloop’s own backyard: Tennessee and other legacy coal-country states that haven’t seen as much renewable energy investment to date, but who should if investors start prioritizing wind and solar projects in places that still have the dirtiest grids. Which in turn can help to bring the clean energy economic revolution — and its jobs — to those same places suffering from coal’s ongoing decline.

Granted, accounting for emissionality is not yet a conventional approach, but it is gaining recognition as a potentially potent factor in corporate renewable investment decision-making. And as more investors recognize that better siting of new wind and solar projects means deepened reductions in grid emissions, more clean energy development opportunities — and employment — will emerge, too.

What emissionality means for jobs

Geographically speaking, the clean energy economy has been something of a hit-or-miss affair, helping drive some communities’ prosperity, while entirely passing others by. Emissionality stands to help even this playing field, contributing to new jobs in places where they’re needed most, as opposed to continuing to oversaturate other markets.

This can be especially valuable in coal country, where coal-mining jobs have declined dramatically over the last decade. Around 53,000 people are coal miners in the United States today, down from 86,000 at the beginning of 2009 and more than 250,000 at the beginning of the 1980s. And according to the https://www.usenergyjobs.org/ (USEER), a joint report by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative, coal-fired generation employment declined by 7.2%, casting off more than 6,600 jobs last year alone.

The specter of coal’s decline lurks in and around states where its mining has historically been an economic driver. Researchers at the University of Tennessee and University of West Virginia project that the long-term decline of mining across Appalachia will have a ripple effect on related businesses, health, education and overall population in the region. In addition to sheer unemployment rates, a side effect of coal’s demise is that it’s already become common for many in the region to commute to jobs in another county, a trend that can take further, harder-to-predict tolls on the fabric of a community.

Contrast all this with the clean energy sector, where jobs have been on the rise, generally, over the past few years. Two years ago, employment in the U.S. solar industry surpassed employment in the coal, oil and natural gas sectors combined. While solar job growth has tapered slightly since, it still remains a powerful economic driver in communities with a strong solar presence. Meanwhile, the USEER report also found that advanced/low emissions natural gas, wind and CHP generation were the fastest-growing employers last year, with employment growing by more than 4,500 (7%), 3,700 (3.5%), and 2,000 (7.4%), respectively.

This growth will spread to coal country when more corporations and institutions see — through the lens of emissionality — the quantifiable value of building new renewables where they will displace the dirtiest coal. Investment momentum in these overlooked parts of the country will then bring both temporary construction jobs as well as long-term maintenance and operations jobs.

Emissionality-based renewable energy investment will start to rebalance the scales, empowering people who are at risk of losing coal-related work access to more quality jobs, locally. And it will do so while supporting corporate climate goals, without sacrificing financial benefits.

Although the wind and solar industries rightly and proudly proclaim their growing contributions to America’s workforce, developing jobs isn’t typically the driving force behind renewable investment by corporate offtakers. But it can be a powerful social benefit in an organization’s larger CSR strategy. And together with far more robust emissions reductions impact, that’s a compelling use case for any potential clean energy investor.

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A new wave of innovation reaches corporate renewables purchasing

In the ancient past of corporate sustainability initiatives—like, say, five whole years ago—the concept of “additionality” gained traction and fundamentally disrupted the long-standing practice of companies buying unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs) as the leading way to demonstrate their commitment to clean energy. Additionality came along and set a new bar: corporations could sign power purchase agreements (PPAs), whether direct/physical or virtual, that enabled new large-scale wind and solar energy to get built and added to the U.S. power grid.

It has undoubtedly been an overwhelming force for good. Between 2015 and August 2019, corporations signed contracts for a staggering 17.7 GW of new renewable energy, according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance Deal Tracker. And the investments continue. Just last month, telecom major T-Mobile announced a quintet of contracts for solar and wind projects in three U.S. states: Virginia, Illinois, and Texas. Meanwhile, also last month tech giant Google announced perhaps the largest corporate renewable investment ever: $2 billion invested in 1,600 MW of wind and solar projects spread across 18 projects in the U.S., South America, and Europe.

All of which begs the question: Is new “steel in the ground” the end game ? Or do some investments mean more than others?

A new wave of innovation reaches corporate renewables purchasing

RECs bundled with PPAs that pass additionality muster remain the standard, especially for the largest buyers that have the demand, credit worthiness, and resources to source such contracts. But with the climate crisis only deepening, we’re now seeing a new wave of innovation to make renewables drive even more impact. As with the decommoditization of electricity, which looked beyond treating all raw kilowatt-hours the same and started to differentially care about the source of those electrons (e.g., coal, natural gas, wind, solar), we’re now arguably seeing a decommoditization of the PPA.

In this unfolding new era of corporate renewables procurement 2.0, we’re starting to see some buyers look beyond the raw PPA. There’s an increasing understanding that all renewable PPAs are not created the same. And I’m not merely talking about common contractual details: price, term length, wind vs. solar. More importantly, I’m talking about location. Where new renewable energy projects get built matters, not in terms of proximity to a corporate buyer’s facilities, but rather in terms of the positive impact a new wind or solar farm will have on grid emissions. And those impacts can be significant: Holding all else equal (e.g., project budget, MW build side, interconnection possibilities), the practice of emissionality, according to WattTime research, can achieve up to a 380% increase in avoided GHG emissions.

“Here at WattTime, we’ve started calling this concept ‘emissionality,’” says co-founder and executive director Gavin McCormick. “Like additionality, it’s a way for renewable energy buyers to ensure their purchases are really driving impact. But it’s a more quantitative way of thinking about impact: by directly comparing the real-world drop in fossil fuel emissions that different renewable energy projects cause.”

The idea is straightforward: Although renewable energy itself is by definition always emissions-free, where such projects get built greatly influences their true net impact on overall grid emissions. For example, yet another wind farm in a region of the country already saturated with—and perhaps even curtailing surplus—wind energy isn’t going to reduce total electricity sector emissions as much as a solar farm built in a region of the country where its output will displace coal-fired electricity.

Emissionality was the driving force behind Boston University’s wind power purchase announcement in September 2018. The university looked beyond the New England region and ultimately signed a contract for a project in South Dakota. That’s because BU’s 2017 Climate Action Plan targeted carbon neutrality by 2040, which included a focus on buying wind and solar energy to offset its electricity use and, crucially, seeking out projects that would reduce emissions as much as possible. In other words, BU didn’t just want renewable energy; it wanted renewable energy that could deliver the greatest emissionality benefits, too.

Clearloop is putting the spotlight on emissionality

Until now, examples like BU’s have accounted for only a minority of the corporate renewable PPA market. But there are signs that emissionality is gaining momentum. For one, new entrant Tennessee-based startup Clearloop—which is already getting a fair amount of buzz—is the first to make it core to their offering. Rather than offer renewable PPAs against a corporation’s overall electricity consumption, Clearloop is offering renewables-based emissions offsets at the product level.

As a hypothetical, imagine that a shoe company wants to offset the carbon emissions associated with producing a particular line of sneaker. Once the company has calculated that emissions number, it can go to Clearloop to source an equivalent amount of avoided emissions, rooted in new renewable energy projects built around the country.

It’s an intriguing twist on corporate renewables procurement. Corporations are typically accustomed to buying renewable energy on a MWh basis. Through Clearloop, they’re instead essentially buying renewables on an avoided emissions basis. This naturally lends itself to putting emissionality into practice. In order for Clearloop to offer its customers the biggest bang for their buck, it will naturally seek to build new renewable energy projects in those regions of the country where they can achieve the biggest avoided emissions.

“The grid is not equally dirty across the country, so we saw opportunities to build renewable energy in places where it can have the best impact,” says Clearloop co-founder Laura Zapata. “Rather than tying carbon offsets to something less tangible and less connected to everyday actions, like trees planted, we’re basically leveraging companies’ desire to invest in carbon reductions and connecting it more directly to tangible renewable energy projects.”Accounting for emissionality of a project still has a way to go before it becomes a central factor in corporate renewable investment decision-making. But it clearly is making inroads. There’s growing recognition that better siting of new wind and solar projects can achieve deeper reductions in grid emissions, rather than adding yet more renewables to those regions that already have it in spades.