Why 24/7 clean energy beats carbon offsetting

Renewable energy certificates are often used to make it look like a company is using more renewable energy than it actually is.

Why 24/7 clean energy beats carbon offsetting

  • Renewable energy certificates are often used to make it look like a company is using more renewable energy than it actually is.
  • You can have round-the-clock clean energy by using 24/7 clean energy.
  • Here's how it works, as well as its benefits and challenges.

After COP26, more companies will feel pressure to reduce their carbon emissions. One way they are doing this is by claiming that all of their energy comes from renewable sources. However, some people call this "greenwashing" because it makes it seem like the company is environmentally friendly when it's not.

Although RECs are a good way to support clean energy, some companies use them to claim they are using clean energy when some of the energy they use is actually from fossil fuels. To make sure this doesn't happen, some companies have committed to using only carbon-free energy all the time (24/7 clean energy).

What is 24/7 clean energy?

24/7 clean energy means that the power supply-demand mismatches are fixed. This helps to get rid of grid congestion and CO2 emissions. It does this by matching electricity consumption with carbon-free energy generation on an hourly basis, from resources on the same local and regional grids.

As a result, 24/7 clean energy is changing from offsetting energy emissions (mostly through RECs) to 'time-location' tracked energy procurement. This means that we can maximise the real-time, local impact of renewable energy. 24/7 energy is fundamentally about recognising that with renewable energy, it DOES matter where and when you consume that energy – and it puts in place the mechanisms to address that challenge.

Supporting companies

Several initiatives aim to speed up the transition to clean energy. More than 100 global companies have joined the EnergyTag initiative, including tech giants, and energy companies like Statkraft and Vattenfall. Through partnerships, Google and Microsoft have enabled their data centres to use less energy by monitoring how much energy they use every hour and matching it with carbon-free sources from their clean-energy portfolios.

Google has created a system called Time-based Energy Attribute Certificates (T-EACs). This system has allowed data centres to be 90% carbon-free on an hourly basis, up from 61% in 2020. Their goal is to achieve 100% 24/7 clean energy by 2030. Cities like Des Moines have followed suit and are also working towards this goal. As more cities and companies join the effort, the momentum for 24/7 clean energy continues to grow.


  1. Making sure that the hours when we use the most electricity match up with when clean energy is being generated helps to reduce our carbon emissions. This way we can make the most of the clean energy we have and minimize our 'dirty' electricity use.
  2. This article encourages the development of mechanisms and technologies to ensure 24/7 clean energy. When companies value hourly clean energy, these mechanisms, standards, and technologies are developed to support that mission (such as real-time energy monitoring, energy storage, and granular clean energy).
  3. This bill provides incentives for suppliers to offer renewable energy in areas where it would have the most impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Renewable energy consumption claims can be verified by matching demand on an hourly basis. This helps reduce the risk of market manipulation and increases a company's ESG score, which provides access to cheaper capital in the financial market.

Potential challenges:

  1. Sometimes companies buy renewable energy certificates to make their energy use cleaner. But this does not always mean that 100% renewable energy is powering the company. Often, when the renewable energy isn't available, the company uses non-renewable sources of energy. There is no standard way to match hourly clean energy consumption and demand to real-time production.
  2. Multi-technology, hybrid, intelligent power systems are needed to provide clean energy 24/7. These systems use renewable energy sources and storage technologies to match demand load on an hourly basis. Many of these technologies are not yet scalable, but progress is being made with the help of artificial intelligence and the internet of things.
  3. There is not a good way to get clean energy 24/7. Renewable assets (like wind and sunlight) are not evenly distributed. So we have to rely on agreements (PPAs) to get clean energy. These agreements don't always give us access to clean energy all the time. Wind PPAs may only provide clean energy 70% of the time. So we need a complementary market mechanism to make sure people invest in renewable energy in new areas. This will improve how accessible and flexible clean energy is for everyone. When there is more renewable energy, people will be less likely to use fossil fuels.

How technology can help

There are several technological solutions that can help make the process of carbon-free energy consumption easier:

  1. The use of artificial intelligence in things (AIoT) for monitoring and analytics can collect data from assets to give a real-time view of an organization's energy usage. AI can be used to optimize how power consumption matches generation on an hourly basis, notably via flexible demand, power forecasting and energy storage. This enables organizations to identify the share of renewable consumption and pinpoint areas of improvement, thus optimising energy procurement activities to achieve 24/7 carbon-free consumption.
  2. Energy trading platforms are important because they help create a 24/7 carbon-free energy market. The platforms allow for the purchase and sale of renewable energy certificates, which in turn helps connect marketplaces to renewable resources. This makes it easier for people to buy certified renewable assets and makes it easier to track where the renewable energy came from.
  3. Energy storage systems are important for solving the problem of intermittency from renewables. When there is more clean energy than people need, the energy can be stored and then given to people when they need it. This also helps reduce the amount of stress on the grid. Energy storage also allows businesses to take part in electricity markets (demand response, ancillary services, etc.), which makes it easier for them to pay back the cost of their investment.

Achieving 24/7 carbon-free power offers many benefits, such as speeding up the process of decarbonizing the grid and reducing emissions to help fight climate change. However, these benefits do not come without challenges, like understanding and mitigating the intermittency of renewable assets and developing a new market for 24/7 clean energy.

Even though big tech companies can afford to buy renewable energy sources for their own consumption, not all companies can do this. However, using technology like AIoT (the internet of things), we can reduce the costs of 24/7 clean energy. This is done by tracking how much clean energy is being used, verifying it, and then buying it in real-time. Additionally, this technology can help companies report their emissions transparently and effectively. In a time when current commitments to reduce carbon emissions are falling short of the Paris 1.5oC target, we need 24/7 clean energy more than ever.

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