Connecting Consumers with Renewable Energy in a New Climate Economy

Sam Telleen, Director of Renewable Solutions, Just Energy
Sam Telleen, Director of Renewable Solutions, Just Energy

Sam Telleen, Director of Renewable Solutions, Just Energy

The shift towards a low carbon economy began years ago, accelerated by motivators like technology, public sentiment, and legislation aimed at curbing the intensifying issues of global warming. At Just Energy, we’ve been leading the charge to integrate sustainable energy into our own operations. There’s a huge role we can play as energy providers and advisors to educate and empower consumers on the effects of their everyday activities, and the actions they can take to mitigate their environmental impact.

Technological innovation and the convergence of different technologies is happening very rapidly. In the energy sector, we’re seeing the transition from a commoditized, centralized and fossil-intensive model to one that is increasingly becoming decentralized, diversified, smart and cleaner. And renewables are front and center: projections show that wind and solar will surge to almost 50 percent of world generation by 2050. And, given the findings of the latest U.S. Climate assessment released November 23, 2018, that’s a good thing. The most comprehensive federal report yet forecasts dire consequences for human health, quality of life, and U.S. economic growth if global warming continues unchecked. However, there is some optimism in the assessment that it’s not too late as changes today can make a big difference.

Scores of local and state governments are taking measures to reduce their own carbon emissions, and we are seeing the manifestation of growing climate change concerns among nations. The key is how that will translate into concrete policy on the ground at the national, state, and local level. During the Global Climate Action Summit in California this past September, regions, cities, businesses, investors and civil society pledged their commitment to action as we hear more and more about reaching environmental tipping points.

  ​The gap between environmental concern and consumer action is projected to narrow   

Public concern regarding the health of the planet has grown well beyond the confines of environmental groups. According to a 2018 Deloitte Resources Study, American consumers are growing more concerned about climate change and their own carbon footprint. This is even despite President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, a move that actually raised awareness of environmental issues prompting businesses to revisit their sustainability plans. Research also shows broad support for renewables among residential consumers striving to become greener at a personal level. The study further reveals that the gap between environmental concern and consumer action is projected to narrow, attributable to falling solar power prices, more awareness of clean energy options, growing concern about climate change and the inclinations of tech-minded millennials to make green choices in their everyday lives.

How does this affect us and how are we using carbon offsets and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) in our business?

As an energy retailer, we’re in a unique position to be at the intersection of these shifts, that is, linking consumers with the marketplace and influencing customer uptake with product choices that will continue to drive green business. And in supporting projects that promote continued renewable energy development, we’re driving innovation and job growth in this considerable economic sector.

We were one of the first major energy retailers to offer green energy choices. Carbon offsets and RECs have been part of our product portfolio for over a decade. We recognized the significance of growing our base of products and services to address the reality of global warming, its environmental consequences, and growing consumer desire for more sustainable options. Not to mention the growing importance for customers to seek out companies prioritizing environmental considerations.

We started with our JustGreen Power and Gas products years ago, which are geared to our electricity and natural gas commodity supply customers. JustGreen Power gives customers the ability to reduce the environmental impact of their electricity supply by matching all or a portion of their usage with RECs from certified renewable sources such as wind, run of the river hydro, solar or biomass. JustGreen Gas allows customers to reduce the carbon footprint of their home or business natural gas use by adding carbon offsets to their gas supply. More than one third of new residential customers added a renewable component to their commodity contract last year.

Thanks to our green customers, over 5 million metric tons of carbon emissions have been offset, which is like taking 1 million cars off the road for a year. In addition, 16.4 million MWh of renewable energy certificates have been purchased—enough electricity to power over 1.3 million homes for a year. Through our customers, we have supported over 178 renewable energy projects, and over 77 emission reduction projects.

By enabling customers to make the choice for sustainable energy when they make their energy supply choices, JustGreen Gas and Power are the easiest options for consumers to support sustainability and renewables.

While renewable energy bundles are now widely available in the market, particularly in the electricity space where it’s common to bundle RECs with an electricity plan, we’re working to go much farther than that. When you consider the emissions associated with everyday activities such as driving, air travel, and entertainment, there is more we can do to help individuals cover their full environmental impact.

As a partner in energy management, we really want to help people reduce the energy they use. We do that, for example, through home-based tools like smart thermostats, usage reports, LED light bulbs and air filters. And on the commercial side, we provide LED retrofit services and real-time monitoring, control, and analytics solutions. Despite best efforts and the routines of everyday living, we cannot offset our impact entirely on our own. So, we go further to help individuals and businesses offset their remaining consumption.

Acquired by Just Energy in 2014, terrapass (born from a University of Pennsylvania business class in 2004) represents the cornerstone of our mission to empower everyone—from individuals to big business—to understand the environmental footprint of their daily lives, and take action to address the emissions they cannot completely avoid. We facilitate this by funding projects that destroy greenhouse gases and produce renewable energy. Each project is made possible by a customer’s purchase of RECs and carbon offsets.

With terrapass, anyone can go online and choose from a variety of options, select one-time purchases or monthly subscriptions to mitigate their impact and feel good about doing it. These include home, car, and air-travel related options, as well as wedding packages and gift packages–products designed to be more meaningful to customers, particularly those motivated to do more to reduce their impact. An online carbon calculator makes it possible to determine the carbon footprint of individuals, businesses, as well as events. In fact, the calculator is widely referenced by students learning about sustainability.

We also give customers the ability to preserve our natural resources through Water Restoration Certificates® from BEF (BEF WRCs™). The purchase of BEF WRCs™ directly contributes to the restoration of recreational and ecological vitality in critical freshwater ecosystems.

In terms of unbundled energy solutions, terrapass broadens our scope of options by making voluntary carbon offsets, RECs and BEF WRCs™ accessible and affordable choices for everyone. We continue to develop products to better serve the sustainability needs of our customers by connecting their life experiences with renewable energy and emission reduction projects that they care about.

Our partnerships across a variety of sectors including sports, municipalities and entertainment venues underscores the trend where entities are increasingly seeking out partners like us to help them take meaningful action. One example is our partnership with the City of Palo Alto in California to help them develop a Sustainability Program, making that city the first in the country to initiate a Green-e Certified utility green gas program. Other partnerships include the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship game where we mitigated the game’s environmental impact with RECs and carbon offsets. Terrapass also served as the Official Sustainability Partner of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee in 2016, offsetting the Super Bowl, team travel and all events leading up to the game. We also developed preset packages of carbon offsets and water restoration credits for Super Bowl sponsors, private aviation, and fans.

More recently, Just Energy helped financial software company, Intuit, procure the renewable power needed to offset its facilities in Plano, Texas, and its Mountain View, California, headquarters. We also helped Intuit deliver its new Purely Green program, whereby the company’s customers, employees and business partners in Texas can purchase local wind-generated electricity at or below the cost of traditional brown, fossil-fuel based power. Ultimately, we work to help partners support their triple bottom line–people, planet, and profit.

With such high value placed on strong corporate social responsibility and positive environmental brand image, it’s critical for companies to understand the drivers and opportunities that resonate among more informed and discerning consumers. We recognize this, and we continuously work to deliver products relevant to today’s low carbon economy and growing eco-consciousness market base. We have the resources to empower anyone to take action—from high profile businesses to municipalities to everyday customers—by financially supporting the projects that make it all possible.

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