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Green-e Dictionary

Additionality means that a carbon offset project is beyond business as usual. It is a concept that is intended to determine which projects would have been built anyway without the added incentive of a functioning carbon market, which can bring additional sources of revenue to (and thus, greater incentive to build) a project. Additionality is the cornerstone of any carbon offset project, since it proves to consumers that their purchases are making a difference. Learn about the additionality requirements for Green-e Climate in the Green-e Climate Standard.

An entity that negotiates the purchase of energy in bulk for a group of consumers, and tries to negotiate lower prices. The group of consumers is called a buying group.

Annual Consumption
Annual consumption refers to the amount of electricity used by a consumer in one year and is typically measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). This information can be acquired from your electricity bill or by contacting your energy provider.

Descriptive or performance characteristics of a particular generation resource. The characteristics of renewables and other generating types (both positive and negative) not reflected in the price of power are referred to as externalities and include environmental, economic, and social characteristics. As detailed below:

  • Physical Attributes: Physical characteristics such as size, location, fuel type, time of generation, etc. The value of these characteristics tends to be captured in the price of power.
  • Environmental Attributes: Environmental attributes include the environmental benefits and costs associated with the construction and operation of specific types of power generation facilities. Environmental attributes of renewable energy facilities might include the benefits of such things as emissions offsets or avoidance, as say from wind-generated electricity.
  • Economic Attributes: Economic attributes might include such things as the development of local jobs and businesses, as well as reductions in the costs of having a secure domestic supply of electricity.
  • Social Attributes: Examples of social attributes include health and quality of life factors, the introduction of innovative technologies and technology applications, as well as social equity considerations related to the location and siting of power plants.

The economic and social attributes are not generally quantified in today’s marketplace.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Burning fossil fuels releases carbon that has been stored underground for millions of years into the atmosphere. During the combustion process, the carbon in these fossil fuels is transformed into carbon dioxide, the predominant gas contributing to the greenhouse effect. While carbon dioxide is absorbed and released at nearly equal rates by natural processes on the Earth, this equilibrium may be disrupted when large amounts of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon Offset
A carbon offset represents a specific quantity of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions (i.e. a ton of carbon dioxide absorbed or avoided) from a project-based activity, which is purchased in order to negate or diminish the impact of the recipient's GHG emissions. When you purchase an offset, you alone have the right to all associated claims about the environmental benefits it embodies. An offset is to be regarded as real environmental commodity, not a donation or investment in a future project. Green-e Climate Certified offsets are sourced from verified projects and pass stringent qualifications to ensure environmental quality. The purchase of a Certified offset helps stimulate market demand for emission-reduction projects that can help mitigate the effect of climate change.

Certificate Retirement
Retirement occurs when a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is used by the owner of the REC.  Use of the REC may include, but is not limited to, (1) use of the REC by an end-use customer, marketer, generator, or utility to comply with a statutory or regulatory requirement, (2) a public claim associated with a purchase of RECs by an end-use customer, or (3) the sale of any component attributes of a REC for any purpose.  Once a REC is retired, it may not be sold, donated, or transferred to any other party.  No party other than the owner may make claims associated with retired RECs.

Commodity Electricity
Generic or null electricity that has been separated from the associated renewable energy certificates.

Allowing two or more entities to sell similar goods and services in the same market. Electric competition means that consumers have a choice of which company they may purchase their electricity from.

Conventional Power
Conventional power is produced from non-renewable fuels such as coal, oil, nuclear and gas, also known as traditional power.

Competitive Power Supplier
Also known as an Electric Service Provider or power marketer, a competitive power supplier sells electricity in the retail market. Some suppliers own generation units, while others buy power from outside generators and then resell it. In any case, the distribution company (in most cases the local electric utility) delivers the electricity sold by an electric service provider to homes and businesses in their service territory.

Customer Choice
The ability of electricity consumers to compare prices, generation types, and choose the company that supplies their electricity.

Customer Logo Use
Any and all uses of the Green-e logo by eligible retail customers of renewable energy, whether in advertising, public display or otherwise. Customer use of the Green-e logo must be in accordance with all logo use requirements and the Customer Logo Use Agreement.

Default Service
In a deregulated electricity market, electricity service available to consumers who choose not to select an alternative electricity service provider.

The process of changing the laws and regulations that control the electric industry to allow competition of electricity service and retail sales. This results in customer choice of an electricity provider.
See also "Restructuring"

Separation of the renewable attributes of RECs from each other, usually to permit independent sale of the component attributes (e.g., of CO2 as carbon offset).

Disclosure Label
Much like a nutrition label, the disclosure label (also known as a Product Content Label or Power Content Label), shows an electricity service provider's generation type in a standardized format. The label may also include prices, terms of contracts with customers, air emissions and labor practices. Green-e requires all marketers to provide end-use customers with a Product Content Label.  Some states also require standard disclosure labels.

Distributed Generation
Small, modular, decentralized, grid-connected or off-grid energy systems located in or near the place where energy is used.

The low voltage system of power lines, poles, substations and transformers, directly connected to homes and businesses. The distribution company is the electric utility that delivers electricity to homes or businesses over these wires. The utility reads meters, maintains local wires and poles and restores power in the event of an outage.

Double Counting
When the bundled attributes associated with a single MWh of generation are ultimately sold to or can be legitimately claimed by more than one consumer. Double counting may include, but is not limited to, any of the following:

  • When the same RECs are sold to more than one party,
  • When the same RECs are claimed by more than one party, including any expressed or implied environmental claims made pursuant to electricity coming from a renewable energy resource, environmental labeling or disclosure requirements,
  • When a REC is simultaneously sold to represent ‘renewable electricity’ to one party, and one or more attributes are also sold, (such as CO2) associated with the same MWh of generation, to another party,
  • When the same REC is used by an electricity provider or utility to meet an environmental mandate, such as an RPS, and is also used to satisfy customer sales.

Electric Service Provider (ESP)
Also known as competitive power supplier or power marketer, an ESP sells electricity in the retail market. Some suppliers own generation units, while others buy power from outside generators and then resell it. In any case, the distribution company (in most cases the local electric utility) delivers the electricity sold by an electric service provider to homes and businesses.

Electric Utility
In a regulated electric market, the entity that owns and/or operates facilities for the generation, transmission, and/or distribution of electricity. In a restructured market, this entity becomes an electric distribution company responsible for transmission and distribution only, and provides default electrical service to consumers that elect not to switch to an ESP.

Eligible Renewable Resource Facility
A facility generating electricity from renewable resources that meet the Green-e Energy National Standard.

Eligible Renewable Resource Product
An electricity product that meets the criteria set forth in the Green-e Energy National Standard, thus being eligible for Green-e certification.

Eligible Retail Customers
Customers who purchase enough Green-e certified product to satisfy a certain percentage of their total annual electricity need from an “eligible renewable resource product.  The percentage required is based on the type of claim and the size of the customer.  Please see Green-e Customer Logo Use Agreement for more details.

Eligible Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) Product
A retail REC product is eligible for Green-e certification if it meets the conditions described in the Green-e Energy National Standard.

Emissions Category (Scope)
The World Resources Institute has developed guidelines for determining the boundaries of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions when developing a carbon inventory (the calculation of how much carbon you or your company, for example, are responsible for). That is, what emissions do you produce, and which do you cause to be produced. For example, an electricity generator at your office is a source of direct emissions. Indirect emissions include commuting to work. They are organized according to "scope:"

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources owned or controlled by the entity.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect, and associated with the generation of electricity, heating/cooling, or steam purchased for the entity’s own consumption.
  • Scope 3 are other indirect emissions not covered in Scope 2, including employee business travel; transportation of products, materials, and waste; outsourced activities; and production of imported materials.

Emission Reduction Credit or Emission Allowance
A tradable authorization to emit a unit of pollution (e.g. one ton) issued or allocated to an electricity generation source by a local, state or federal agency that may be used for the purposes of demonstrating compliance with air pollution emission control obligations under 'cap and trade' programs.

Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency occurs when you use less energy to accomplish the same task, for example heating your home or washing clothes. Using less energy means less air pollution and lower costs. To save energy in your home, you can use weather stripping, a water heater blanket or compact fluorescent light bulbs. Also when shopping for household appliances, look for the Energy Star to find appliances that use less energy and lower your electricity costs.

Environmental Attributes
An environmental attribute is an instrument used to represent the environmental costs or benefits associated with a fixed amount of electricity generation, usually from a specific generating plant.  For renewable facilities, environmental attributes represent the general environmental benefits of renewable generation such as air pollution avoidance.  The exact quantity of the environmental benefit (e.g. pounds of emission reductions of a given pollutant) is not indicated by an environmental attribute, though it can be quantified separately in pollution trading markets and through engineering estimates.  The environmental attribute represents all environmental benefits, whether or not trading markets for such pollutants or benefits exist.

Environmental Authority
Any regulatory authority or governing board having jurisdiction over the environmental effects related to an electric utility's electricity operations or of the disclosure of generation mix.

Environmentally Superior Product
A product that reflects 1) a greater proportion of renewable energy and 2) lower emissions per kilowatt-hour of SOx, NOx, and greenhouse gases than the default system power.

Fossil Resources
Electric generation using natural gas, oil, coal, or petroleum coke or other petroleum-based fuels.

Fuel Mix
The proportions of each fuel type (e.g. nuclear, coal, solar electric, oil, wind, hydro, etc.) used by a power plant to generate electricity. The fuel mix is displayed on the Product Content Label.

Generation is the act of converting various forms of energy such as oil, gas, sunlight, or wind, into electricity. Generation is the one part of the electric industry that has been opened to competition in some states.

Global Warming
Global warming is the rise in the earth's temperature resulting from an increase in heat-trapping gases (mainly carbon dioxide and methane) in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels used in the production of electricity contribute to two-thirds of these gases found in the atmosphere.

Green-e Logo
The certification mark, registered and owned by the Center for Resource Solutions, representing an electric power product conforming with and used in conformance with the requirements of the Green-e Code of Conduct. The Logo may also be used by companies that have purchased minimum quantities of Green-e Certified Renewable Energy and have signed the Green-e Logo Use Agreement.

Green-e Governance Board (The Board)
The advisory board for the Green-e Renewable Energy Program.  The Board meets approximately quarterly as a full board, and may convene additional meetings or meet in subcommittee as necessary.

Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
Gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that produce the greenhouse effect. Changes in the concentration of certain greenhouse gases, due to human activity such as fossil fuel burning, increase the risk of global climate change. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halogenated fluorocarbons, ozone, perfluorinated carbons, and hydrofluorocarbons.

Green Power
As defined by Green-e, this term is synonymous with "eligible renewable resource product."

Green Power Marketers
Due to increased customer awareness of the environmental implications associated with power generation, a growing number of utilities and other types of energy service providers have begun offering green power products. The term “green power marketers” usually refers to energy providers operating in states that permit retail competition in the electricity markets. In states that do not allow this retail competition, many utilities have begun offering green power options under what are typically referred to as green pricing programs.

Green Power Product / Option
Green power electricity products are supplied from renewable energy resources and include both green pricing and green marketing. These products are delivered through the utility grid, a utility, or a competitive electricity supplier. Green power products always contain a higher percentage of renewable-based electricity than standard electrical service. Green power sold by regulated utilities is called green pricing, and when sold in competitive electric markets green power is called green marketing or retail green.

Green Pricing
Green pricing refers to an optional utility service that enables customers of traditional utilities to support a greater level of utility investment in renewable energy by paying a premium on their electric bill to cover any above-market costs of acquiring renewable energy resources.

Green Power Purchasing
Green power can be purchased nationwide from several sources. Green power marketers offer green power products to consumers in deregulated markets—such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New England. In states that do not allow retail competition in the electricity markets, many utilities offer renewable energy products through green pricing programs. In addition, all customers nationwide have the opportunity to buy renewable energy and stimulate the development of renewable generation sources through renewable energy certificates. Finally, customers can choose to install on-site renewable generation, such as solar panels.

The grid is a term used to describe the network of wires and cables which transport electricity from a power plant to your home.

A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the standard unit of measure for electricity. One kilowatt-hour is equal to 1,000 watt-hours. The total number of kilowatt-hours charged to your bill is determined by your electricity use. For example, if you used a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours, you would be billed for one kilowatt-hour (100 watts x 10 hours= 1,000 watt-hours). The average home in the United States uses 750 kwh/ month.

One thousand kilowatts, or 1 million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity.

One thousand kilowatt-hours or 1 million watt-hours.

Municipal Utility
A municipal utility is a non-profit utility that is owned and operated by the community it serves. Whether or not a municipal utility is open to customer choice and competition is decided by the municipality's public officials.

Net Metering
A method of crediting customers for electricity that they generate on site in excess of their own electricity consumption. Customers with their own generation offset the electricity they would have purchased from their utility. If such customers generate more than they use in a billing period, their electric meter turns backwards to indicate their net excess generation. Depending on individual state or utility rules, the net excess generation may be credited to their account (in many cases at the retail price), carried over to a future billing period, or ignored.

New Renewables
Only new renewables are eligible to meet Green-e standards. The term "new" is defined to include any eligible renewable facility beginning operation or repowered after January 1, 1997.
An eligible new renewable generation facility must either be:

  1. Placed in operation (generating electricity) on or after January 1, 1997;
  2. Repowered on or after January 1, 1997 such that 80% of the fair market value of the project derives from new generation equipment installed as part of the repowering;
  3. A separable improvement to or enhancement of an existing operating facility that was first placed in operation prior to January 1, 1997, such that the proposed incremental generation is contractually available for sale and metered separate from the existing generation at the facility; or
  4. A biomass co-firing facility that meets all requirements for biomass co-firing outlined in section III.B. of the Green-e Energy National Standard and began co-firing non-eligible fuels with eligible biomass as defined in III.A. of the Green-e Energy National Standard on or after January 1, 1997, or
  5. A separately metered landfill gas resource that was not being used to generate electricity prior to January 1, 1997.

Any enhancement of fuel source that increases generation at an existing facility, without the construction of a new or repowered, separately metered generating unit, is not eligible to participate, with the exception of new landfill gas resources identified in (5) above. An eligible "new renewable" must qualify as an "eligible renewable resource" as described in the Green-e Energy National Standard.

New Source Review
The regulation established under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, whereby new sources of pollutant emissions must offset the emissions of neighboring sources in order to achieve no net gain in emissions in a given area.

Nuclear energy is derived from the splitting or "fissioning" of uranium atoms. Uranium is mined, processed to increase the amount of fissionable material, and made into fuel rods which are then placed in nuclear reactors. As the uranium atoms split inside the reactor, they generate heat which is converted to steam and used to generate electricity. The storing of nuclear waste and the potential radiation hazards creates enormous environmental risk.

Null Electricity
Electricity that is stripped of its attributes and undifferentiated. No specific rights to claim fuel source or environmental impacts are allowed for null electricity.  Also referred to as commodity or system electricity.

see Carbon Offset

On-site Renewable Generation
Electricity generated by renewable resources using a system or device located at the site where the power is used. On-site generation is a form of distributed energy generation.

Participating Supplier/Provider
A retail supplier selling a Green-e certified product who has agreed to abide by the Green-e Code of Conduct and who sells products conforming to the environmental and consumer protection standards set by the Green-e Governance Board.

Product Content Label
Much like a nutrition label, the disclosure label (also known as a Product Content Label or Power Content Label), shows an electricity service provider's generation type in a standardized format. The label may also include prices, terms of contracts with customers, air emissions and labor practices. Green-e requires all marketers to provide end-use customers with a Product Content Label.  Some states also require standard disclosure labels.

Power Marketer
An electricity service provider - an electric company.

Power Pool
An association of interconnected electric systems in a region, often having an agreement to coordinate operations and plans for reliability improvements.

Process Audit
A process audit is the type of audit performed annually to verify Green-e certified products meet the Green-e Standard. A process audit is different from a traditional financial audit in that the auditor only reviews those materials and processes dictated by a set of agreed-upon procedures developed by the Center for Resource Solutions.

Product / Option
A product is a retail electricity service package (also know as offering or option) sold by an electric service provider. Under the Green-e Program, a product is defined as a mix of renewable electricity or tradable renewable certificates that are supported by eligible new renewable generation that conforms to the Program’s resource content and emissions guidelines.  A product may include some non-renewable electricity such as system power so long as it conforms to the Green-e Program’s resource content and emissions guidelines.  Pricing variations that do not change a given product’s supporting resource mix, SOx, NOx, or greenhouse gas emissions, do not constitute different products.  One product may be sold in more than one state provided that the supporting resource content is the same in both states and the supply supporting the product sold in both states comes from the same supply pool.

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)
When a renewable energy facility operates, it creates electricity that is delivered into a vast network of transmission wires, often referred to as “the grid.” The grid is segmented into regional power networks called pools. To help facilitate the sale of renewable electricity nationally, a system was established that separates renewable electricity generation into two parts: the electricity or electrical energy produced by a renewable generator and the renewable “attributes” of that generation. (These attributes include the tons of greenhouse gas that were avoided by generating electricity from renewable resources instead of conventional fuels, such as coal, nuclear, oil, or gas.) These renewable attributes are sold separately as renewable energy certificates (RECs). One REC is issued for each megawatt-hour (MWh) unit of renewable electricity produced. The electricity that was split from the REC is no longer considered "renewable" and is cannot be counted as renewable or zero-emissions by whoever buys it.

RECs contain specific information about the renewable energy generated, including where, when, at what facility, and with what type of generation. Purchasers of RECs are buying the renewable attributes of those specific units of renewable energy, which helps offset conventional electricity generation in the region where the renewable generator is located. Green-e Energy Certified RECs are not sold more than once or claimed by more than one party, and since they are sold on the voluntary market, they cannot count towards a state’s renewable-energy mandate.

Buying RECs helps build a market for renewable electricity. It also has other local and global environmental benefits including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution; stabilizing energy costs by reducing price volatility in the energy markets; improving energy reliability from distributed generation; strengthening America's energy independence and diversity; creating jobs in rural areas; and promoting sources of unlimited, emissions-free domestic energy.

Graphic: Renewable Energy Generation

REC Graphic

Fossil fuel generation produces commodity electricity. Renewable generation also produces electricity, but for every megawatt-hour of electricity generated, a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is also produced. This REC embodies the additional environmental benefit of renewable energy—little or no pollution.

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS)
A state or federal level policy that requires that a minimum amount (usually a percentage) of electricity supply provided by each supply company is to come from renewable energy.   

Renewable Resources
Sources of electricity, such as solar electric, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric. A resource is called renewable if it can be naturally replenished. In general, renewables have lower environmental impacts than non-renewables. For a list of Green-e eligible resources, please refer to the Green-e Energy National Standard.

Residual Mix
Generation that is delivered to users without a specific attribute certificate retired on its behalf can be assigned a "residual mix". This residual mix is made up of generation attributes that were not retired for a specific electricity use, and excludes renewable energy attributes used in voluntary renewable energy products. The World Resources Institute’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol also has guidance on residual mix calculation.

Restructuring is a term used to describe a sequence of events whereby a monopoly electricity territory controlled by a single utility is opened up to competition. Usually this occurs in the retail electricity sales and electricity generation areas.  Also referred to as deregulation. 

Scope (see Emissions Category)

Service Area or Service Territory
The geographical territory served by an electric service provider.

Specific Purchases
Electricity transactions which are traceable to specific generation sources by an auditable contract trail or equivalent, such as a tradable commodity system, that provides commercial verification that the electricity source claimed has been sold once and only once to retail consumers.

The Green-e Standard is the set of criteria that electricity products must meet in order to be Green-e certified.

Specific purchases of power reflected in the product produced for ultimate sale and sold over the electric grid.

System Power
The mix of electricity fuel sources consumed in the state or region that are not disclosed or marketed as specific purchases or as defined by the relevant state agency.

Tracking Systems
Renewable energy generation ownership can be accounted for in two different ways: through contract-path auditing and through tracking systems. Tracking systems are becoming the preferable method because they can be highly automated, contain specific information about each MWh, and are accessible over the internet to market participants. Tracking systems are databases, typically electronic, with basic information about each MWh of renewable power generated in the region. Electronic tracking systems allow RECs to be transferred among account holders much as in online banking. Renewable energy tracking systems assign a unique identification number for each megawatt hour of renewable electricity generated in a particular region. The database tracks certain information for each megawatt hour, including facility location, generation technology, facility owner, fuel type, nameplate capacity, the year the facility began operating, and the month/year the MWh was generated. Since each MWh has a unique identification number and can only be in one account at any time, this reduces ownership disputes.

A tracking system can be used by regulators as a registry of generating facilities, as a means of verifying compliance with a Renewable Portfolio Standard, for aiding in the creation of disclosure labels, and for other purposes such as verifying wholesale supply for green power products. Tracking systems are not substitutes for certification and verification, as tracking systems only monitor wholesale transactions—individual retail green power customers do not hold accounts on tracking systems. That is why certification such as Green-e is so important for voluntary purchasers.

There are several regional tracking systems in operation in the U.S., and more under development. Fully operational tracking systems include the New England Generation Information System, ERCOT's Texas Renewables, WECC's Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System, the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System and PJM's Generation Attribute Tracking System.

Renewable Energy Tracking Systems Map (updated February 8, 2013). Click on the map for a larger version.
Tracking System Map

The towers and high voltage lines that transport energy from power plants to the distribution company.

Utility Regulatory Authority
Any utility regulatory authority or governing board having jurisdiction over the allocation of costs from the electricity generating facility.

Green-e Verification consists of the Green-e Process Audit and the Green-e Marketing Compliance Review. The Process Audit requires retail and wholesale electricity service providers to conduct an annual third-party verification of their power purchases and sales. The Marketing Compliance Review is a semiannual review of a company's marketing materials to ensure that the company is abiding by the Green-e Code of Conduct and Customer Disclosure Requirements.

The vintage of a REC is the date that the electric generation associated with the REC was measured by the system operator or utility meter at the generator site.  The vintage of a generator or generating facility is the date that the facility was placed into service. 

A unit of energy equal to the power of one watt operating for one hour. One watt-hour equals 3600 joules. 1,000 watt-hours is equal to a kilowatt-hour, the most common way to measure electricity use.

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