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Are Renewable Energy Certificates Right for Your Company?

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts co-developed by Schneider Electric and RILA about renewable energy options for retailers. To read the first on the opportunity for onsite PPAs, click here. To read the second on owned onsite systems, click here. To read the third on aggregates renewables, click here.

As retailers look to reduce their environmental footprint and grow renewable energy investments, understanding the ever-changing renewables procurement landscape can be challenging. That’s why RILA is developing a new renewable energy guide, which highlights fundamentals of different procurement options and key considerations, specifically for retailers. In this excerpt from the guide, we discuss the opportunity for companies to procure renewable energy certificates.

What are Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)?
RECs are how renewable energy is tracked and traded. Companies that voluntarily purchase green power use RECs to make claims to the clean energy generation they represent in the market. RECs provide valuable market signals for renewable energy development and carbon reduction goals.

Over time, with the development of new global markets for renewable energy, a variety of certificates have been created. The term Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs) refers to this class of established and emerging green power commodities, regardless of the country of origin. In the United States, EACs are called RECs; in Europe they are called Guarantees of Origin (GOs); in other global regions they are called I-RECs.

Who uses them/What are the key benefits?
RECs are affordable, flexible, and highly credible. They are ideal for companies that would like a simple solution to reducing their carbon footprint and meeting renewable energy goals.

If retailers are constrained by leasing restrictions, need to meet their carbon reduction goals, and want geographical flexibility, RECs are a better option when compared to offsite or onsite PPAs, although RECs are often used in combination with these other systems.

Kohl’s Department Store is a leader in REC purchasing. The company has been a consistent leader on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership list, and purchases enough RECs annually to address nearly 100% of the company’s total electricity load. In addition, retailers such as Walmart, H&M, and REI all use RECs to attain and sustain their renewable energy goals.

Are Renewable Energy Certificates right for you?

  • Environmental Attributes
  • Flexibility
  • Accessibility
  • Credibility


  • Additionality
  • Reputation
  • Expense

Ready to move forward with Renewable Energy Certificates?

Like any renewable energy initiative, engaging company stakeholders is crucial to get buy-in and ensure there is a thorough understanding of the deal structure, benefits, risks, and implementation. Stakeholder groups that should be involved include sustainability and purchasing. Prior to moving forward, the key is to identify short-term or long-term goals around sustainability, carbon reduction, and renewable energy acquisition for your company’s needs.

Learning from other organizations is a valuable tool in helping shape the company’s overall strategy and decision. These approaches can be found by reviewing the EPA’s Green Power Partnership.

Renewable energy certificates can be purchased from many sources including open commodity markets, energy brokers, and third-party providers such as Schneider Electric. To learn more, download the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) whitepaper, Bottom Line on Renewable Energy Certificates.

To learn more about Renewable Energy Certificates, if they’re a viable option for your company, and next steps for moving forward, access the full chapter in the renewable energy guide, here, and all the chapters published so far here.