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How RECs and carbon offsets can help decarbonize systems

Study after study confirms that electric cars are much cleaner than internal-combustion vehicles. For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists recently verified that the average gas car produces up to seven times the average electric vehicle emissions. That’s based on a new gasoline car getting an optimistic 31 mpg.

While electric vehicles don’t produce any local emissions, an EV’s exact carbon footprint is dependent on the local grid’s energy mix. In many parts of the country, the grid is getting cleaner and greener every day. But it’s likely to take another decade or two before most regions rely on 100% renewable power.

Even if you don’t get 100% of your energy from a renewable source, you can still achieve zero emission vehicles and transportation. That’s achievable with JuiceEco, a clean energy solution from Enel X that enables EV owners to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that match the electricity used to charge their electric cars. With a single click, EV drivers can purchase that number of JuiceEco renewable credits that correspond to the energy usage required to power their driving. Voila!

An Overview of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Carbon Offsets

Governments, companies, organizations, and everyday folks alike are trying to curb their carbon emissions to mitigate climate change and provide environmental benefits. Over 90% of Fortune 500 companies now report their greenhouse gas emissions, and many are pledging to achieve carbon neutrality, with Amazon promising to be carbon neutral by 2040, Microsoft committing to be carbon negative by 2030, and Shell targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

These businesses have developed comprehensive strategies to hit their sustainability targets by cutting fossil fuels and resorting to more clean energy solutions. One strategy, used by businesses as well as individuals looking to reduce their carbon footprint, is to leverage carbon offsets or renewable energy certificates, both of which help cancel out greenhouse gas emissions These tools can support consumers and businesses in achieving their climate goals and help enable the growth of renewables and clean energy. Any EV driver interested in reducing their carbon footprint and making their electric transportation even greener may want to consider taking advantage of carbon offsets and Renewable Energy Credits.

What Is a Carbon Offset?

A carbon offset represents the act of reducing, avoiding, destroying, or sequestering the equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Those reductions happen in one place to offset carbon emissions taking place somewhere elsewhere. In other words, it’s indirect. You can invest in a decrease in emissions anywhere in the world to cancel out your carbon footprint.

A carbon offset is a useful but imperfect solution. It’s the means by which a business, government, or individual essentially pays somebody else to remove a given quantity of greenhouse gas emissions. A carbon offset is usually measured in terms of metric tons of CO2. It can take the form of financing a wind turbine, providing solar panel solutions in developing nations, or planting trees.

There is no fixed price on carbon for carbon offsets, but they can be purchased through specialty providers or via programs offered by companies, such as airlines. It's critical to buy carbon offsets from providers who use third-party certification companies (often non-profits) to ensure that funds go to legitimate and effective carbon-reducing projects.

As Vox writer Umair Irfan summarizes: "At its core, an offset is an accounting mechanism. It's a way of balancing the scales on pollution."

What Are Renewable Energy Credits?

Whereas carbon offsets can come in many different forms and are measured in metric tons, a Renewable Energy Credit or Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) represents a prescribed megawatt-hour of renewable energy added to the grid. It’s a specific, measurable unit.

Every renewable energy certificate comes with a unique ID number, which is used for tracking. This ensures the investor knows where his or her energy comes from and that no one else can use that purchased REC. The REC(s) must be used by the purchaser and cannot be resold.

RECs are a natural fit for EV drivers seeking to minimize their carbon footprint. After all, purchasing a renewable energy credit ensures that a megawatt-hour of renewable energy is added to the grid. Not every individual or business can install solar panel solutions. And not every region of the United States benefits from hydro-electric green power like the Pacific Northwest or abundant wind in Texas and solar energy across the southwest.

But an EV driver who plugs in a car will likely want to know about the source of the electricity. It could be powered by a mix of solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, natural gas, or coal. However, RECs come in the form of a third-party verified certificate that confirms with certainty that renewable energy is generated on the purchaser's behalf. RECs support the growth of renewables by helping to fund a renewable energy project and demonstrate customer demand for renewables, which is critical for the industry’s growth.

Enel X offers a shopping-cart experience to purchase RECs based on a specific amount of energy consumed by an EV for a set number of miles. Enel X's JuiceEco Green-e renewable certificates are administered by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions (CRS). The San Francisco-based organization certifies that the renewable is generated from new facilities, marketed with complete transparency, and delivered to the purchaser, who has the sole exclusive title.

JuiceEco: How It Works

Enel X is the only home EV charging provider that provides renewable energy credits. Purchasing a JuiceEco REC could not be easier. The process starts by visiting the Enel X online store.

Do you want to put 10,000 miles' worth of renewable energy into the grid? Then use the dropdown menu to purchase a "10,000 mile, 3,400-kilowatt-hour certificate." Add the $30 certificate to the cart and check out.

The math is straightforward. Let's say your electric car travels about 3 miles per kilowatt-hour. If you purchase 3,400 kWh, that means you are contributing enough renewable energy to the grid for 10,200 miles of pure green electricity. (Many EVs get closer to 4 miles per kWh, but you get the idea.)

Suppose that you want to cover at least 15,000 miles of zero-emission driving. Then select the $45 REC, which invests in 5,100 kWh of renewable energy. Or go the extra distance of 20,000 zero-emission miles with a $60 REC covering 6,800 kilowatt-hours of carbon-free energy.

These REC purchases represent the final piece of an unassailable three-part, ultra-green electric driving strategy. First, drive less. Second, when you need to motor to a destination, drive an EV. And finally, buy those Green-e-backed JuiceEco certificates. With JuiceEco certificates, you can rest assured that you're doing as much as you can to reduce your carbon footprint while still getting around.

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