Campus Renewable Energy Advocates: Be Aware of Attempts to Expand the Definition of 'Renewable'
I suppose it really shouldn’t come as a surprise but I was still caught off guard by a recent article, (“With billions at stake, trying to expand the meaning of ‘renewable energy’ ”) which describes industry lobbying groups seeking to expand the definition of renewable energy to cover everything from waste coal and methane from coal mines to the burning of used tires. I laughed, until I realized that those two examples are actually legitimate in certain states that currently have renewable energy mandates (PA and NV respectively).
The article is important for campuses to be aware of for a couple of reasons. First, it strikes to the heart of the ongoing debate regarding renewable energy credits (or RECs) and the validity of these for reducing GHG emissions. (For background on RECs see section 5.4 of the AASHE Climate Action Planning Wiki)
It also provides further justification for examining what it is exactly your campus is buying before signing up for a large REC purchase through a utility or other party.
In addition, if definitions of ‘renewable’ are expanded (or rather, weakened) at the federal level (for example, if a national renewable energy standard becomes law) and utilities are allowed to count certain technologies such as chemically treated coal and nuclear as renewable, we will be far away from reaching the goal of a country powered by sustainable, renewable energy.
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