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Top 5 Reasons to Steer Clear of Emissions Free Energy Certificates

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Companies shopping for carbon-free or renewable energy options beware. Not all credits and certificates are created equal. 

Renewable energy credits and certificates with similar acronyms are easy to confuse. However, credits that come from zero-emissions sources and credits that produce renewable energy do not offer the same environmental benefits.

Consider the differences between RECs and EFECs. 

  • Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) represent the environmental impact of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable energy generation. 
  • Emission Free Energy Certificates (EFECs) are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated from an emission-free source. EFECs generally come from nuclear energy. 

RECs are designed to account, track and assign ownership for the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity. EFECs, on the other hand, are designed to account, track and assign ownership for the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of energy generated from emission-free sources.


Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) When purchased alongside energy, RECs guarantee that equivalent energy was created from renewable sources.
Emission Free Energy Certificates (EFECs) When purchased alongside electricity, EFECs guarantee that equivalent energy was created from emission-free sources.


1. EFECs do not promote renewable energy or emission-free energy production 

Reconstituting an existing, nuclear byproduct does not support renewable energy generation; it perpetuates the status quo. Although nuclear generation is a source of emission-free energy, the relatively high cost of nuclear generation has halted the development of any new nuclear generation stations in the U.S. for more than 25 years. As a result, EFECs do nothing to promote additional renewable energy or emission-free energy on the grid.

2. Most EFECs are sourced from nuclear power generators

The vast majority of EFECs come from nuclear power plants that have been producing emission-free power for years. Companies can claim that nuclear energy from EFECs reduce their carbon footprint because these certificates are zero-emitting. However, the long-term implications of nuclear energy do not align with broader sustainability strategies or support a renewable energy future. 

3. EFECs are not a verified purchase

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the only organization that certifies green power projects in the United States is the Center for Resource Solution’s Green-e Energy program. Green-e® certified renewable energy and carbon offset products meet the strictest environmental and consumer protection standards in North America. 

EFECs are not Green-e® certified or recognized by any reputable renewable entities. Unverified green purchases can undermine an organization’s credibility and sustainability efforts. Moreover, unintentional false claims may present regulatory risks and influence brand perception. Be sure to choose Green-e® certified RECs to make the most of your renewable purchase. 

4. EFECs do not have the same environmental impact as RECs 

Competitive suppliers who own generation and have a supply of EFECs may bundle that product in with their offer for “free” while purchasing RECs typically adds cost.  In this case, power buyers should consider cost versus impact. EFECs are not interchangeable substitutes for RECs. RECs make an environmental impact by financially incentivizing the additional development of new renewable resources, while EFECs primarily compensate legacy nuclear generation assets.  

Buying RECs offers the dual-benefit of purchasing energy responsibly while creating demand for new, clean energy to be brought online. Businesses that buy RECs can directly support a range of renewable energy technologies including hydro, biomass, geothermal, solar and wind. 

5. There is no market for EFECs

RECs are a liquid, tradeable certificate used to prove renewable energy production. RECs have market value because they are used for both compliance and voluntary markets. On the other hand, EFECs do not trade and have no compliance or voluntary market value. 

Although EFECs do not emit greenhouse gases, these certificates simply do not meet accredited sustainability standards. Organizations that want to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and help mitigate the impacts of climate change should only consider Green-e® certified Renewable Energy Credits. 

Posted: June 23, 2020