More renewable energy buyers than ever before are intentionally siting wind and solar projects in locations where they will push more dirty energy off the grid.
Oakland, Calif. — 14 September 2023 — Environmental tech nonprofit WattTime today announced that at least one billion watts of renewable energy have now been procured through an emissionality-based approach. In other words, these wind and solar projects have been selected based partially on their potential to avoid more emissions due to their location and the emissions intensity of the power grid in that region.
“Clean energy projects only reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuel plants, and siting them in particularly high-emitting, fossil fuel-heavy regions can greatly amplify their climate benefits by pushing dirtier sources of electricity off the grid,” said Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of WattTime. “That’s the power of emissionality — a simple approach that can result in bigger benefits for the planet.”
This billion watt milestone is based on WattTime’s analysis of both publicly available and additional confidential market information. Partners of the organization which have publicly listed emissionality as part of their renewable energy procurement strategy include Salesforce, Nucor, Boston University, Clearloop, Rivian, and others.
Most recently, Rivian and The Nature Conservancy partnered with Brightnight on a project which will transform a Kentucky coal mine into an 800-megawatt solar facility. The site was selected, in part, through an emissionality lens to ensure a heftier decarbonization effect for the grid.
"In July, Rivian announced a partnership with BrightNight and The Nature Conservancy to be the largest offtaker (100MW) of solar power from phase 1 of the Starfire project in Kentucky — soon to be built at the site of what was once one of the largest coal mines in the US,” said Andrew Peterman, director of renewable energy at Rivian. “We worked closely with The Nature Conservancy to develop a rigorous evaluation framework and set of resources (Power with Purpose) to help select renewable energy projects that prioritize positive benefits for climate, conservation, and communities. WattTime’s analysis and input allowed us to integrate an emissionality-based approach and ensure we were maximizing the climate benefits of our decision.”
Thanks to emissionality, the 14 wind and solar projects included in WattTime’s billion watt milestone will reduce an estimated 10 million tonnes more emissions than they otherwise would have. All of the renewable energy sites included in the analysis are located in coal-heavy regions in the US or overseas.
“It took years of work with like-minded partners to reach a billion watts of emissionality, but we are now seeing a dramatic acceleration. We estimate the next billion watts may happen in mere months, now that momentum is building at what seems to be an exponential pace and other buyers are catching on,” said McCormick.
“As a longtime partner of WattTime, together we’ve pioneered the importance of making sure renewable energy projects get more done when it comes to tackling carbon emissions,” said Laura Zapata, CEO and co-founder of Clearloop. “At Clearloop, we’re fully focused on finding innovative ways to fund and launch new solar projects where they can do the most good — both by cleaning up the grid and expanding access to clean energy, as well as investing in underserved American communities. With support from WattTime, we’ve built Clearloop to help organizations of all sizes embrace emissionality as a key grid decarbonization solution.”
A white paper originally drafted in 2009 by Meredith Fowlie at UC Berkeley first floated the concept that one could, in theory, detect where building renewable energy would reduce more emissions, and then deliberately select these locations. McCormick and the WattTime team built on this theory and coined the term emissionality in 2017.
Today, WattTime works with institutions of all kinds to support them in selecting more impactful projects, whether by providing avoided emissions analysis, connecting them with like-minded groups, or otherwise assisting them in their sustainability efforts. WattTime’s analyses are based on marginal emissions data, which assess the real-world impacts of consuming or generating power at a specific time and location.
Today’s billion watt milestone includes only projects that evaluated avoided emissions with WattTime data — the details of which were readily available to the analysis team. But WattTime would like to hear about (and celebrate) other renewable energy projects with locations that were chosen because they avoided more emissions.
To share information about your projects, learn more about emissionality, or discuss renewable energy project selection support, contact the WattTime team here.
WattTime is an environmental tech nonprofit that empowers all people, companies, policymakers, and countries to slash emissions and choose cleaner energy. Founded by UC Berkeley researchers, we develop data-driven tools and policies that increase environmental and social good. During the energy transition from a fossil-fueled past to a zero-carbon future, WattTime ‘bends the curve’ of emissions reductions to realize deeper, faster benefits for people and planet. Learn more at www.WattTime.org.