Reporting Carbon Reductions from Renewable Energy Purchases in New Reporting Platform

By Jenn Andrews, Sustainability Projects Director, University of New Hampshire and Steve Muzzy, Senior Manager Climate Programs, Second Nature

One of the many challenges of working toward carbon neutrality is that—because of the reality of evolving scientific understanding, policy, and economic responses—the standards and protocols for carbon accounting continue to evolve and change. In 2015, the GHG Protocol (the most widely-accepted international standard for carbon accounting best practices) issued new guidance about how to account for Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity. The updated standard is intended to better capture the impacts of current renewable energy market structure and institutional renewable energy purchasing practices. The GHG Protocol now asks institutions to report their Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity using two methods—a “market based method” and a “location-based method.”

The location-based method is meant to communicate the reality of emissions from the electric grid to which an institution or organization is tied. For practical purposes, reporting using the location-based method entails using regional emissions factors (i.e., E-Grid.) Most institutions already use this method to determine Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity, so this will not represent any change.

A bigger change is the requirement to also report using the market-based method, for institutions that procure renewable energy. The market-based method takes into account all the various ways in which institutions purchase off-site renewable energy (e.g. unbundled RECs, power purchase agreements, utility pricing, etc.), and essentially subtracts the kWh-equivalent of the institution’s entire off-site renewable energy portfolio from the volume of purchased electricity before applying an emissions factor to the number of kWh purchased. The result is that the reductions in carbon emissions driven by renewable energy procurement are reflected in the institution’s Scope 2 emissions total from the outset, rather than being subtracted from the carbon footprint after the fact and communicated as a difference between gross and net emissions.

What does this mean for signatories as they complete their 2017 Annual Progress Evaluation?
In the updated  Reporting Platform, Second Nature asks signatories to enter the results of the “market-based method” for Scope 2. To align with that change, the “Emissions Reductions for RECs” carbon equivalent data field that had been part of the previous GHG inventory report has been removed.

For schools that do not hold any RECs from off-site renewables, you can report your Scope 2 emissions just as you have in the past (assuming you are using an E-Grid default emissions factor).

For schools that do procure renewable energy (from their utilities, PPA’s, unbundled RECs, or any other sources for which RECs are retained), you will need to make sure that the Scope 2 number that you enter already has those RECs taken into account.

Since neither the Campus Carbon Calculator or CarbonMAP have yet been updated to reflect this methodological change (UNH will be making this update in the next version of its tools), here is what you need to do if you use either of those tools. This will ensure that you are entering the appropriate number in the Scope 2 Emissions data field and that the impact of your renewable energy procurement is reflected in your carbon footprint:


1) On the Input sheet:

Enter the total number of RECs that your campus owns into column DQ on the input sheet. Leave the electricity input (column BX) as is.

2) On the EF_Electric Map worksheet:
Make sure the proper E-Grid regions are chosen and that Custom Fuel Mix is not selected.

3) On the Second Nature Reporting Worksheet:
Subtract the number in column S from the number in Column G.

4) In the Second Nature Reporting Platform
– Open your Annual Progress Evaluation
– On the “2. Emissions Data” page in the form – enter the resulting figure from step 3 above into the  “Purchased Electricity” data field under the “Scope Two” heading.


Instead of entering REC totals in the “Other Sources” tab, subtract the number of RECs kWh’s that you would have entered on the Other Sources tab from the kWh of purchased electricity that you would normally enter on the Scope 2 tab, for your Purchased Electricity entry. On the Purchased Electricity entry form, enter that reduced kWh number (actual purchased kWh minus REC kWh) as your Purchased Electricity. (You should use the Notes field in the Purchased Electricity data entry form to note the number of actual purchased kWh and the number of RECs.)

The total Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity that CarbonMAP generates on the dashboard will then be the emissions total you should enter in the “Purchased Electricity” data field under the “Scope Two” heading on the “2. Emissions Data” page of the Annual Progress Evaluation in the Second Nature Reporting Platform.