Ensuring the clean energy that companies buy can be delivered to where they use it can advance power market expansion, support transmission buildout and help link grid regions, according to a white paper by Singularity Energy.
However, many procurement standards allow energy purchases across broad areas that are tied to energy attributes rather than power markets or other physical boundaries, the company said in the white paper released Thursday, which was funded by Google, a proponent of hourly matching using local generating resources.
In the white paper – Where matters: Integrating deliverability into voluntary clean energy market boundaries – Singularity proposes a framework for incorporating “deliverability” into procurement and carbon accounting standards and initiatives, such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, RE100 and the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The GHG Protocol, the most widely used emissions accounting standards according to the initiative, last year launched a process to revise its Scope 2 accounting and reporting guidance for greenhouse gas emissions from purchased electricity and other energy. The issues of matching the time of clean energy use to its production as well as deliverability are part of the review, according to Singularity, a start-up company that provides time- and location-based grid emissions data.
The white paper comes as companies are looking at ways to more closely tie their clean energy procurement to their actual electricity use, including 24/7 carbon-free electricity from within the region where it is used.
There has been significant discussion around 24/7 matching, but the issue of deliverability has largely been unexplored, Singularity said.
A deliverability framework
The white paper aims to fill that gap with a framework for developing voluntary clean energy market boundaries that reflect some level of physical deliverability while remaining practical enough to encourage broad participation.
Carbon accounting standard setters should consider three broad issues when determining market boundaries, including structural relevance, according to Singularity.
“The boundaries should align voluntary actions with the needs of the grid and complement existing market and regulatory structures, which are increasingly organized around grid decarbonization in addition to their traditional roles of ensuring the safe, reliable, and affordable delivery of electricity,” Singularity said.
The boundaries should also seek to ensure that clean energy procured within the boundary can be delivered to its user within that boundary, partly to improve the credibility of matching claims, Singularity said.
Finally, standard setters should consider practicality so that the boundaries support the participation of all voluntary market participants, regardless of their energy procurement capabilities, the authors said.
Better aligning voluntary clean energy markets with electricity markets through enhanced deliverability requirements can promote efficient electricity markets and support grid reliability needs, they said in the report.
Singularity hopes its white paper sets the stage for “meaningful conversation” around deliverability, Wenbo Shi, the company's CEO and founder, said in an interview. “Hopefully, one day we can all come together and then have a proposal that can meet everybody's needs.”
Google sees benefits in deliverability
With 6.2 GW under contract, Google is the third largest corporate clean energy buyer in the U.S., behind Meta and Amazon, according to a report from the American Clean Power Association. Google is 64% towards its goal of running exclusively on clean energy 24/7 by 2030 on the grids where it operates, according to its 2023 environmental report, released last month.
For Google, deliverability is a key criteria for enabling more accurate and transparent carbon accounting, according to Savannah Goodman, data and software climate solutions lead at the technology company.
“Deliverability is a key way to bring transparency, accuracy, and comparability to carbon footprint claims, and we see it as a really important way for aligning energy actions with long-term grid needs, whether it's more transmission or certain types of technologies in new regions,” Goodman said in an interview.
Grid modeling research shows that local matching and time matching is the best way to accelerate grid decarbonization, Goodman said, pointing to a study from Princeton University researchers.
Also, considering deliverability in determining procurement boundaries can better align buyer actions with the local and long-term grid needs, according to Goodman.
Deliverability metrics could spur transmission development by helping identify market boundaries and areas where new transmission would provide access to more cost effective clean energy supplies, she said.
Also, the grid relies on matching demand with supply every hour of every day, so local matching and deliverability for voluntary procurement aligns with those grid needs and grid planning, she said.
While transmission development needs policy support, the concept of deliverability in corporate clean energy procurement “widens the aperture” for who would support the need for more transmission, Goodman said.
Companies turn to 24/7 carbon-free electricity
In the United States, 326 companies had contracted for 77.4 GW of clean energy as of the end of 2022, up from about 10 GW five years earlier, according to the American Clean Power report.
Constellation Energy, a power supplier to three-fourths of Fortune 100 companies, is seeing growing interest in 24/7 carbon-free electricity from within the region where it is used as corporations look to move beyond offsetting their carbon emissions on an annual basis, according to Mason Emnett, Constellation’s senior vice president of public policy.
Companies are realizing that even though their power purchases meet GHG accounting standards, they may still use fossil power at certain times because their procured electricity wasn't produced at the same time that they're using it or it was produced in another region and isn't deliverable, Emnett said in an interview.
In June, Constellation entered into a contract with Microsoft to supply electricity to a data center in Virginia using nuclear power from the PJM Interconnection region. The emissions-free nuclear power will supply the data center when contracted wind and solar farms aren’t providing electricity for the facility.
The Microsoft contract will bring the data center close to 100% hourly-matched electricity, according to Emnett. “It's possible, it's affordable, and the systems are in place to do it,” he said.
Constellation looks forward to a broader conversation about deliverability and 24/7 clean power, according to Emnett. “It starts with awareness, and then turns to solutions,” he said.