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Green Power Partnership

Solar Power Use Claims

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are legal instruments used in renewable electricity markets to account for renewable electricity and its attributes. The owner of a REC has exclusive rights to the attributes of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity and may make unique claims associated with renewable electricity that generated the REC (e.g., using or being supplied with a MWh of renewable electricity, reducing the carbon footprint associated with electricity use). Claims based on a REC can only be made by one party. Once made, no other entity can legitimately make claims on the electricity associated with that REC.

The examples below are designed to provide guidance to organizations that have, or are considering installing, on-site solar systems as to the types of claims they can legitimately make pertaining to their “use” of solar power and any associated carbon footprint reduction claims.

Scenario 1: On-site Solar System & Own Associated RECs

If your organization has a solar PV system on-site and keeps the RECs associated with the system’s electricity generation.


Examples of acceptable claims:

  • “We installed a solar project on-site and our facility is powered with renewable energy.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because by owning and retaining the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the solar system you can legally substantiate claims of using the renewable electricity produced by that onsite project.
    • This claim statement could be improved by recognizing your organization’s ownership of the RECs associated with the on-site project, since installing a project does not explicitly convey that your own the RECs from the project. Furthermore, be sure to always make claims that match the scope of your green power use. If you are using green power for a subset of your organization (i.e., facility-level), you should communicate the scope of your green power use (i.e., at “our facility”) when making your claims.
  • “We are using solar energy from a project whose development we facilitated.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because by owning and retaining the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the solar system you can legally substantiate claims of using the renewable electricity produced by that onsite project. Direct ownership and self-financing of a renewable project offers the most intuitive and direct connection to claims of project facilitation.
  • “We are using on-site solar to match X percent of our annual electricity use.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because by owning and retaining the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the solar system you can legally substantiate claims of using the renewable electricity produced by that onsite project.
    • The statement related to the percent of renewable electricity use should also be based on the MWh equivalent represented by the RECs produced by the on-site system and any other sources of RECs owned and retained by your organization.
  • “Our PV system is powering our facility with solar electricity and reducing our carbon footprint.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because by owning and retaining the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the on-site solar system you can legally substantiate claims of using the renewable electricity produced by that onsite project. Owning and retaining the solar RECs from the project also substantiates your use of zero emissions electricity, which supports the claim of reducing your carbon footprint or Scope 2 emissions (Scope 2 are the indirect GHG emissions associated with the consumption of purchased electricity under a greenhouse gas inventory).
  • “By using X MWh of zero emissions on-site solar energy, we have reduced our Scope 2 emissions and our organization’s carbon footprint.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because by owning and retaining the associated renewable energy certificates (RECs) from the solar system you can legally substantiate claims of using the renewable electricity produced by that onsite project. Owning and retaining the solar RECs from the project also substantiates your use of zero emissions electricity, which supports the claim of reducing your carbon footprint or Scope 2 emissions (Scope 2 are the indirect GHG emissions associated with the consumption of purchased electricity under a greenhouse gas inventory).
    • The project/REC owner, however, should take care to not make claims about reducing either direct or global emissions, as a REC instrument does not convey ownership of a ton of direct emissions reductions to its owner as would a project offset instrument.
    • If the solar project owner either does not own or chooses to sell the associated RECs/attributes from the system, the new owner/buyer is the only one who can claim the solar attributes. If the solar project owner and the new REC buyer both claim the same environmental benefits or to both be using energy produced by the same solar project, then that is considered a double claim on the same MWh of solar.

Example of an Unacceptable Claim:

  • “Our PV system is powering our facility with solar electricity and reducing more than X tons of emissions annually.”
    • Why: Unlike carbon offset instruments, RECs do not convey to their owner a claim of a ton of emissions reduced. RECs are measured in MWh increments/units and only convey to their owner a renewable electricity use claim regarding that MWh. There is no contractual mechanism that exists under a bilateral renewable energy contract that would have the electric utility (a third-party to the bilateral contract and the actual owner of the direct emissions reduction associated with electricity generation) give up their ownership of the direct emission claim to a renewable electricity user. Because RECs do not convey a ton of emissions reduction to its owner, these types of claims should be avoided.

Scenario 2: On-site Solar System & Do Not Own Associated RECs

If your organization has a solar PV system on-site and does not own the RECs associated with the system’s electricity generation.


Examples of acceptable claims:

  • “We installed on-site solar but our utility receives the RECs from the system.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because it conveys that while a solar project may be hosted by the system owner, the electricity generation and associated RECs are owned by another party. Without exclusive ownership of any RECs, you cannot publicly claim the use of renewable electricity or having reduced your carbon footprint. An owner of a renewable energy project can always make the claim to be generating renewable energy, but in order for the project owner to also claim to be using renewable energy (e.g., a consumer) they must be able to substantiate their use by owning the associated renewable energy attributes (i.e., RECs).
  • “We increase the amount of renewable energy on the grid by supplying our utility with the solar energy generated at our facility.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because it conveys that while a solar project may be hosted by the system owner, the electricity generation and associated RECs are sold to the utility and no replacement RECs are procured. Without exclusive ownership of any RECs, you cannot publicly claim the use of renewable electricity or having reduced your carbon footprint. An owner of a renewable energy project can always make the claim to be generating renewable energy, but in order for the project owner to also claim to be using renewable energy (e.g., a consumer) they must be able to substantiate their use by owning the associated renewable energy attributes (i.e., RECs).
  • “Our project supplies solar electricity to our utility in order for it to meet its renewable energy goals.”
    • Why: This claim statement is acceptable because it conveys that while a solar project may be hosted by the system owner, the electricity generation and associated RECs are transferred to the utility and no replacement RECs are procured. Without exclusive ownership of any RECs, you cannot publicly claim the use of renewable electricity or having reduced your carbon footprint. An owner of a renewable energy project can always make the claim to be generating renewable energy, but in order for the project owner to also claim to be using renewable energy (e.g., a consumer) they must be able to substantiate their use by owning the associated renewable energy attributes (i.e., RECs).

Examples of unacceptable claims:

  • “We have an installed on-site solar project and are powered by that renewable energy.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because you are not the exclusive owner of the renewable energy certificates (RECs) associated with the solar project and therefore cannot legally substantiate your claims about using the solar electricity produced by your project.
  • “We are using solar energy from a project whose development we facilitated.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because you are not the exclusive owner of the renewable energy certificates (RECs) associated with the solar project and therefore cannot legally substantiate your claims about using the solar electricity produced by that system.
  • “We are using on-site solar to match X percent of our annual electricity use.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because you are not the exclusive owner of the renewable energy certificates (RECs) associated with the solar project and therefore cannot legally substantiate your claims about using the solar electricity produced by that system.
  • “Our PV system is powering our facility with solar electricity and reducing our carbon footprint.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because you are not the exclusive owner of the renewable energy certificates (RECs) associated with the solar project and therefore cannot legally substantiate your claims about using the solar electricity produced by that system. Owning and retaining the solar RECs from the project also substantiates your use of zero emissions electricity, which supports the claim of reducing your carbon footprint or Scope 2 emissions (Scope 2 are the indirect GHG emissions associated with the consumption of purchased electricity under a greenhouse gas inventory).
  • “By using X MWh of on-site solar, we have reduced our Scope 2 emissions by X tons of CO2.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because you are not the exclusive owner of the renewable energy certificates (RECs) associated with the solar project and therefore cannot legally substantiate your claims about using the solar electricity produced by that system. Owning and retaining the solar RECs from the project also substantiates your use of zero emissions electricity, which supports the claim of reducing your carbon footprint or Scope 2 emissions (Scope 2 are the indirect GHG emissions associated with the consumption of purchased electricity under a greenhouse gas inventory).

Scenario 3: On-site Solar System & Do Not Own Associated RECs, but Purchase Replacement RECs

If your organization has a solar PV system on-site, but does not own the RECs associated with the system’s electricity generation and your organization purchases RECs to replace the RECs the solar PV system generated.


Examples of acceptable claims:

Examples of unacceptable claims:

  • “We use solar electricity.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because it is unqualified and not specific enough to inform readers about the source of your renewable energy use situation. Readers may presume that you are using solar power from your on-site solar project and not the solar energy that you purchased from a different project. An owner of a renewable energy project can always make the claim to be generating renewable energy, but in order for the project owner to also claim to be using renewable energy (e.g., a consumer) they must be able to substantiate their use by owning the associated renewable energy attributes (i.e., RECs). This claim statement does not convey where the solar use is coming from and could be misleading.
  • “We host a PV solar system on our roof. We are solar powered.”
    • Why: This claim statement is unacceptable because it is unqualified and not specific enough to inform readers about the source of your renewable energy use. Readers may presume that you are using solar power from your on-site solar project and not the solar energy that you purchased from a different project. An owner of a renewable energy project can always make the claim to be generating renewable energy, but in order for the project owner to also claim to be using renewable energy (e.g., a consumer) they must be able to substantiate their use by owning the associated renewable energy attributes (i.e., RECs). The claim does not convey where the solar energy is coming from and could be misleading.

Related Resources

  • Guide to Making Claims About Your Solar Power Use
    This guide describes best practices for appropriately explaining and characterizing solar power activities and the fundamental importance of renewable energy certificates (RECs) for solar power use claims. This guidance is primarily focused on claims associated with on-site projects but is equally relevant for off-site owned projects as well.
  • Solar Power Use Claims Flow Chart
    Similarly to the information presented above, this print-friendly flow chart provides guidance to organizations that have, or are considering installing, on-site solar systems as to the types of claims they can legitimately make pertaining to their “use” of solar power and any associated carbon footprint reduction claims.

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