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Last edited 09 Jun 2021
UKGBC publishes renewable energy procurement and carbon offsetting guidance
On 9 March 2021, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) published Renewable Energy Procurement and Carbon Offsetting Guidance for Net Zero Carbon Buildings.
 Procurement of high-quality renewable energy
As identified by the Climate Change Committee report in December 2020, within the UK, the procurement of renewable electricity has had a limited impact, and in many cases, no impact at all on emissions reductions either for the organisation or for the country. This is because most of the renewable energy being procured either already exists (e.g., from an existing wind farm) or is supported by Government subsidies.
As a result, the procurement does not guarantee a causal relationship between an organisation’s action and any emission reduction delivered. This includes the vast majority of ‘green tariffs’, where the positive environmental impact is overstated.
The guidance from the UKGBC includes a set of principles which should be used to evaluate the quality of renewable energy procurement routes, including how to create additionality – driving a material increase in the UK’s renewable energy capacity.
 Procurement of high-quality carbon offsets
Whilst carbon offsetting has frequently come under scrutiny for potential ‘green washing’, the use of high quality carbon offsets can be employed as part of a credible pathway to net zero, if used responsibly. In line with UKGBC’s guidance, carbon offsets should only be used to compensate unavoidable emissions in a timeframe aligned to the point of pollution: annually for operational energy, and at the point of completion for construction.
This guidance outlines how the environmental integrity of an offset is determined, the existing carbon standards that provide this assurance of integrity, and how domestic carbon standards can play a role within organisational net zero strategies. It also sets out a ‘leadership approach’, which demonstrates how organisations and consumers can use carbon offsetting to go beyond emission reductions and support the development of a broader value proposition aligned to long-term business strategies and/or support the UK and global transition to net zero.
Syed Ahmed, Director, Energy for London said: “This is a complex area, but one of growing importance as long-term procurement of renewables presents significant opportunities in driving forward new renewable generation capacity in cities and more widely, supporting the renewables sector at a challenging time.”
Designed to support UKGBC’s report ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A Framework Definition’, this guidance is intended to be used by building developers, designers, owners, occupiers and policy makers. Given the complexities of certain elements, it will be of most use to energy procurement, facility management and sustainability professionals within these organisations. It is applicable to all building types, sizes, and ownership scopes where annual public disclosure of energy use, generation and carbon offsets is possible.
UKGBC Chief Executive Julie Hirigoyen added, “The importance of the principles put forward in this guidance to evaluate the quality of renewable energy procurement routes, to calculate the residual emissions and to offset those residual emissions in a meaningful way is paramount to ensure the credibility of any net zero carbon building claim. This guidance marks an important step forward in helping the industry to deliver on our net zero targets, and ultimately respond to the climate crisis with buildings that are fit for the future…”
 Collaborative effort
- Acclaro Advisory
- amber energy®
- Burges Salmon LLP
- Buro Happold
- Carbon Intelligence
- Carbon Trust
- The Crown Estate
- Currie & Brown
- Hilson Moran
- Hoare Lea
- Marks & Spencer
- Max Fordham LLP
- Peel Energy (Peel L&P)
- Syzygy Consulting
- Willmott Dixon
The task group was supported by the following organisations:
- Better Buildings Partnership (BBP)
- British Property Federation (BPF)
- Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)
- Energy Institute (EI)
- Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)
- Passivhaus Trust
- Renewable Energy Association (REA)
- Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- Sustainable Energy Association (SEA)
This work forms part of UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero programme, which has been made possible in 2020 through the support of Redevco Foundation, BAM Construct UK, Berkeley Group, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Hoare Lea and JLL UK.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Carbon offsetting.
- Climate Change Act.
- Interview with Julie Hirigoyen, UK-GBC.
- Net zero carbon 2050.
- Renewable energy.
- UKGBC launches new Solutions Library to enable sustainable buildings.
- UK Green Building Council.
- Zero carbon task group.
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