As the climate crisis continues to escalate, companies are increasingly stepping up and committing to reduce their carbon footprint. Scope 2 emissions, or the indirect emissions associated with electricity usage, can be addressed in numerous ways – the most common tactics are building on-site renewables, financially supporting a new project (VPPAs), and purchasing unbundled Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
Ever.green is helping companies meet their energy goals by allowing them to put their dollars towards enabling new solar projects. As we stand-up these projects in collaboration with corporate sponsors and solar developers, we consider the project’s impacts on the climate, land, wildlife, and communities, and seek to maximize benefits and minimize harms wherever possible.
Ever.green's Solar Scorecard
In order to more effectively ensure our high-bar is met, we’ve developed a scorecard organized into four themes (detailed below) where we set an ambitious minimum requirement for responsible development of medium to large solar projects and outline ways to go above and beyond.
Who is this for?
This framework was built to score small (1-10MW) and large (> 50MW) utility scale solar farms built for companies seeking to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. We are publishing this work both to be transparent about the standards we hold our projects to and for use by companies sponsoring or building solar projects elsewhere.
We wouldn’t be here without the help and support of others working to address climate change with both urgency and intentionality. Atlassian has provided resources for defining our high-bar and vital feedback throughout the development process. We’ve also solicited opinions and incorporated suggestions from numerous other organizations including The Nature Conservancy, WattTime, and St. Philip's College. Biggest of all, this framework is an evolution and expansion of the fantastic More Than a Megawatt framework by Salesforce and others.
Additionality is a test traditionally applied to carbon offsets and in plain terms, means that the activity or project would not have happened without the contribution or incentive from the carbon offset, or in this case, corporate sponsorship of the solar project.
Testing for additionality is the first theme because it is a gating factor with Ever.green’s projects. Companies want to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. That only happens where more renewables are getting built than is today. We want sponsoring solar projects to be as impactful, if not more impactful, than choosing to install solar on-site.
Building renewables where the grid is dirtier means more emissions are avoided. And aiming for a lower cost per watt allows you to build more solar with the same budget.
When planning a clean energy project, it is critical to take into account the grid mix of the region in question – is it already made up of primarily clean energy sources? If so, consider relocating the project to a region where there are more fossil fuels and the addition of the project would be more impactful.
Economic efficiency is also a factor we consider at Ever.green - what is the cost of development compared to the expected power generation? A better cost ratio means each dollar spent will build more renewable energy generation and avoid more greenhouse gasses. The cost of a project can be brought down through investment tax credit (ITC) and production tax credit (PTC) incentives outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA).
We look at the impact of the materials as well as the impact of the project on the land and wildlife.
Materials impact looks at the physical components of the solar panel supply chain, i.e. disclosures on ethical labor practices, material recyclability, and certification or registration with a third-party group such as EPEAT or SEIA.
Land use requires that projects avoid critical habitat and conduct an expert assessment to ensure land use regulations are met. Bonus points are available for building in more low-impact areas (such as urban environments and brownfields), as well as best land management practices that can be utilized to further reduce the impacts of the project.
The Wildlife section focuses on conducting expert wildlife impact assessments and complying with local and federal wildlife laws. Bonus points are awarded for minimizing impact on species of concern, using best management practices, and wildlife-friendly construction and O&M.
The transition to renewable energy can have direct benefits to the community from creating jobs with fair wages and benefits to lowering energy costs and improving air quality. Sizing projects to be smaller and/or engaging with the community can help make sure everyone benefits from new projects.
A just transition to renewable energy requires contracts for fair labor practices and safety measures (e.g. a Responsible Contractor Policy), as well as paying prevailing wages and utilizing a certain percentage of registered apprentices in the construction of the project, as outlined in the IRA. Bonus points are awarded for going beyond the IRA requirements, employing local contractors and engaging in workforce development programs or something similar.
And to lift up communities, smaller projects must not have strong community opposition while larger projects should have community support. Bonus points are awarded for smaller projects that cause less disruption, community health benefits, community engagement initiatives (i.e. school programs, tours), on-site education centers or community centers, and siting smaller projects in low-income or Tribal communities to address environmental inequities.
© 2023 Evergreen Renewables Inc. All rights reserved.