Many Singaporeans who want to live green often do it through daily actions of reducing consumption of single-use plastics, saving water and electricity, and more. But how about using Green Electricity to power our homes and workplaces?
The obvious way to consume Green electricity is to own, operate and consume electricity that is generated on site with renewable methods such as Solar, or Biomass Fuel. However, not many consumers in Singapore have the means to generate renewable electricity on site, such as owning solar panels and other personal power generators. For most of us consumers, we can still benefit from Green Electricity only through renewable generation assets that are not owned by ourselves. The current tested method of achieving this is through the use of environmental attributes.
As consumers we all get our electricity from the National Grid. The Grid is a network of 23,000 Km of electrical cables, switch gears and the like. Power once generated, and pumped into the Grid which is not consumed immediately dissipates and is lost and wasted. Electricity from the power plants, once in the Grid, will be impossible for consumers to distinguish the origin of electricity they consume. Hence all electricity generated by fossil fuels, solar PV or any other means once in the Grid is absolutely indistinguishable, for electrons in the grid cannot be differentiated. So how do we quantify this supposed "green electricity" that we have purchased?
Distinguishing electricity by source can be done by measurement and verification in proxy. 2 options are available- measurement and verification of environmental attributes, or by employing blockchain technology. Being able to distinguish the source of the electricity we consume will allow any us to make informed decisions to purchase power generated from certified renewable sources.
1) Environmental Attributes
Two “commodities” are simultaneously generated with a renewable power generation asset, viz - electricity and the environmental attribute. An environmental attribute is a unit of measure of the green electric output of a renewable generating asset. ‘Renewable Energy Credits’ or RECs is industry term for these environmental attributes. 1 unit of REC is generated for every 1 MWh of Renewable Electricity generated. A consumer of Green Electricity purchases the amount of electricity one consumes, and as well the equal units of RECs. By this way of “green tagging” one is deemed to have purchase Green Electricity. An impartial central REC registry and exchange is necessary to administer and facilitate such a system for functionality, objectivity, and transparency.
The concept of “green tagging” can be also administered with the same functionality, objectivity, and transparency without a central registry and exchange with blockchain technology. Blockchain, where smaller power generators and storage systems distribute power independently, will allow not just “green tagging’, but also “source tagging”; i.e. tagging of the source of where and how power is generated. It will also not just enable source-to-consumer price discovery and transactions, but also peer-to-peer ones. However, until the Blockchain system actually makes it to the market, Green Tagging and by extension Green Electricity is still best procured through RECs or an equivalent.