Demystifying Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Unveiling the Power of VPPAs and PPAs

Jul 07, 2023

Demystifying Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Unveiling the Power of VPPAs and PPAs

In an era where businesses are increasingly prioritizing sustainability and renewable energy, the landscape of clean energy procurement options has expanded. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) have emerged as powerful tools for organizations to embrace clean energy and reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) have gained traction, providing even more flexibility and scalability in renewable energy procurement. Understanding these mechanisms and exploring their potential benefits is essential for organizations seeking to make informed, financially-viable decisions in their transition to a greener future. Experts at Environ Energy are here to help you achieve sustainability for a greener future and healthier community.

Understanding RECs

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) play a crucial role in the procurement and accounting of renewable energy. As hospitals and healthcare facilities seek to transition to green power sources, it is essential to grasp the concept and significance of RECs in achieving sustainability goals.

A REC represents the environmental and social attributes associated with the generation of renewable energy. When renewable energy is produced, such as from wind, solar, or biomass sources, RECs are created to track and verify the environmental benefits of that energy. Each REC represents one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy generation.

RECs also form the backbone of renewable power procurement. They serve as tracking and accounting instruments that validate the generation and use of renewable energy. RECs can be procured through various channels, including local distribution utilities, competitive power suppliers, or directly from renewable energy generators. The ownership and retirement of RECs are fundamental to claiming renewable energy usage, making them an essential component of any green power purchasing decision. 

The Opportunity for RECs for Healthcare Facilities 

For healthcare organizations considering the purchase of green power, RECs serve as the foundation for claiming and allocating the usage of renewable energy. RECs can be procured in several ways: from local distribution utilities, competitive power suppliers, or directly from renewable energy generators. In states where green power retail suppliers are not available or utilities do not offer a green power option, organizations can still buy RECs as a stand-alone product, independent of their electricity purchases.

Bundled RECs are a popular option for healthcare facilities seeking to align their energy consumption with renewable sources. With bundled RECs, organizations can purchase electricity and the associated RECs together. This approach ensures that the electricity consumed is matched by an equivalent amount of renewable energy generation, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the facility.

By investing in renewable power purchases with bundled RECs, healthcare organizations directly support renewable energy projects and contribute to the growth of the clean energy sector. These projects may include the development of solar farms, wind turbines, or other renewable energy infrastructure. The purchase of bundled RECs helps fund the ongoing operation and expansion of these projects, driving the transition to a sustainable energy future.

In addition to bundled RECs, stand-alone or unbundled RECs are also available as a separate purchase option. This allows organizations to acquire RECs without necessarily purchasing the associated electricity. Stand-alone RECs provide flexibility and enable healthcare facilities to support renewable energy even if their electricity supply cannot be directly sourced from renewable sources.

Ownership and retirement of RECs are critical elements in the green power purchasing process. When an organization buys RECs, they gain ownership of the environmental attributes associated with renewable energy generation. This ownership allows them to claim the usage of renewable energy and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. Retirement of RECs ensures that the environmental benefits of renewable energy are not double-counted or claimed by multiple entities, ensuring the integrity of renewable energy claims.

It is important to note that regardless of the supply option chosen, all green power options include RECs. RECs convey ownership of the environmental attributes and the right to claim renewable energy usage, even if the electricity is sourced from a shared grid.

For healthcare facilities committed to sustainability and carbon reduction goals, understanding RECs is essential. By procuring bundled or stand-alone RECs, hospitals and healthcare systems can actively support renewable energy generation and make tangible progress in reducing their carbon footprint. As healthcare organizations embrace the use of RECs, they contribute to a cleaner, greener future while fulfilling their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Exploring VPPAs and PPAs

Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are two key mechanisms through which healthcare organizations can commit to long-term renewable power contracts. VPPAs and PPAs are contract structures that organizations can utilize for procuring renewable energy. PPAs enable organizations to develop renewable generation facilities, while VPPAs allow direct procurement of renewable energy. Both options provide significant environmental and financial benefits, fostering a sustainable future.

As hospitals and healthcare facilities strive to commit to long-term renewable power solutions, exploring Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) presents viable options for securing clean energy and achieving sustainability goals. These agreements offer unique opportunities for healthcare organizations to make a meaningful impact on the environment while maintaining compliance with their renewable energy objectives.

1. Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs):

VPPAs offer organizations a unique approach to procuring renewable energy through contractual agreements. In a VPPA, organizations do not physically purchase the electricity generated by a specific renewable energy project. Instead, they enter into an agreement with the project developer to financially settle the electricity over a predetermined period. By understanding the concept and advantages of VPPAs, organizations can explore this innovative approach to renewable energy procurement and take significant steps towards achieving their sustainability goals.

Unlike traditional power purchase agreements, where organizations directly buy electricity, VPPAs operate differently. In a VPPA, the organization and the developer agree on a strike price. The developer then sells the power generated by the renewable energy project into the broader market. If the market price exceeds the agreed-upon strike price, the organization receives a payment from the developer. Conversely, if the market price falls below the strike price, the organization makes a payment to the developer.

Essentially, VPPAs allow organizations to act as financial intermediaries and offer a hedging mechanism to renewable energy developers. By engaging in a VPPA, organizations can support specific renewable energy projects and contribute to the growth of clean energy generation, all while managing financial risks and enjoying the environmental benefits.

This approach enables healthcare facilities to access renewable energy even if they do not have the physical infrastructure to generate energy, or if they are not in a deregulated market. In situations where you can’t choose who you buy power from, VPPAs offer financial alternatives as a sustainable solution.

VPPAs provide numerous benefits for healthcare organizations. By entering into a VPPA, hospitals and healthcare facilities can actively support the development of renewable energy projects. These projects can include large-scale solar farms, wind turbines, or other forms of renewable energy infrastructure. Through the purchase of the project’s electricity output, healthcare facilities help fund the construction and operation of these renewable energy facilities, promoting their expansion and making a significant contribution to the clean energy transition.

VPPAs also offer long-term price stability for electricity procurement. By securing a fixed price for the renewable energy generated by the project, healthcare organizations can mitigate the risks associated with fluctuating energy prices and ensure cost predictability over the agreement’s duration. This stability can be crucial for healthcare budgets and financial planning.

Furthermore, VPPAs provide environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the growth of renewable energy generation. By directly sourcing renewable energy, healthcare facilities can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices, contributing to a healthier and greener future.

2. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs):

PPAs are contract structures that enable organizations to procure renewable energy directly from generation facilities. Healthcare facilities, for example, can install renewable energy infrastructure such as solar panels or wind turbines and enter into a PPA to purchase the electricity generated by these systems.

Through a PPA, organizations establish an agreement with the developer or provider of the renewable energy project. The agreement outlines the terms, including the duration and pricing structure, for purchasing the renewable electricity. This allows healthcare facilities to support renewable energy generation and reduce their environmental impact while potentially achieving long-term cost savings.

PPAs provide organizations with the opportunity to actively contribute to a sustainable future by procuring clean energy and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. By embracing PPAs, healthcare facilities can demonstrate thought leadership in sustainability practices and make a positive impact on the environment. PPAs provide long-term stability by securing a fixed price for the energy generated on-site, allowing healthcare organizations to budget effectively and achieve cost savings over time.

In addition to financial benefits, PPAs showcase the commitment of healthcare facilities to sustainability and environmental stewardship. By generating their own renewable energy, healthcare organizations can become local leaders in clean energy adoption and set an example for their community, inspiring others to follow suit. PPAs empower hospitals and healthcare facilities to actively contribute to the transition to renewable power and demonstrate their dedication to reducing their carbon footprint.

Exploring VPPAs and PPAs presents healthcare organizations with opportunities to directly invest in renewable energy and secure long-term clean power solutions. Whether through off-site VPPAs or on-site PPAs, hospitals and healthcare facilities can align their energy consumption with renewable sources, reduce their environmental impact, and demonstrate leadership in sustainability.

Next Steps

As the demand for clean energy continues to grow, understanding the intricacies of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs), and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) is crucial for organizations aspiring to become leaders in sustainability. By harnessing the power of RECs, businesses can support renewable energy generation and claim the associated environmental benefits. VPPAs and PPAs offer the opportunity to directly procure renewable energy, providing long-term stability and cost savings while contributing to the development of new clean energy projects. As thought leaders in the renewable energy landscape, organizations that embrace these mechanisms not only make a positive impact on the environment but also showcase their commitment to a sustainable future. By staying informed and exploring the potential of RECs, VPPAs, and PPAs, businesses can position themselves at the forefront of the green energy revolution while fostering a more sustainable and resilient world for generations to come. 

To learn more about VPPAs, PPAs, RECs, and how these agreements can help your healthcare facility achieve its renewable energy goals, we encourage you to connect with the Environ team. Our experts can provide in-depth insights, assess the feasibility of these options for your specific needs, and guide you through the process of entering into a long-term renewable energy contract. Let’s embark on a journey towards a greener, more sustainable future together.