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This project was conducted, as a template, to make Bates College a more sustainable energy community. By recommending renewable energy certificates (RECs) and carbon offsets that are meaningful to the Bates Committee on Environmental Responsibility we have provided a roadmap for the college to obtain its ultimate goal of carbon neutrality. The aim of this project was to provide a general overview of the REC and carbon offset market for our community project partner Julie Rosenbach, the Manager of Sustainability Initiatives at Bates College. We are offering five recommendations of RECs and carbon offsets that are meaningful investments for Bates College and its community.

RECs are defined as carbon offset that “represent the environmental and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation and are a component of all renewable electricity products” (EPA 2014). A single Class I REC represents 1000 kilowatt-hours of electricity that is generated from a renewable energy source (e.g. wind, hydroelectric, solar, or biomass) (EPA 2014). Purchased RECs represent that the owner is using electric power generated from a carbon-free source. RECs have been available for decades, but recently have gained more traction as a practical way to obtaining carbon neutrality as clearer definitions and measures have been put in place (Main 2007). Similarly, carbon offsets, “a unit of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) that is reduced, avoided, or sequestered to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere,” provide an alternative way to reduce a carbon footprint (Goodward & Kelly, 2010).

Bates College, after signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment or ACUPCC, has elected to pursue climate neutrality thus entering the voluntary carbon offset market. Our five recommendations are based on our findings within the market and how we defined an offset program as meaningful. Developing a definition and criteria for meaningful RECs and carbon offsets was crucial in the process of selecting our recommended programs for Bates College to invest in. We considered many factors surrounding the idea of a sustainable community and how to create a positive impact on the environment of and around Bates College through investing in locally meaningful offset programs.

Our definition of meaningful entails four major categories: Locality, Additionality, Cost-effectiveness, and an Educational component. Locality refers to the permanence, closed-looped nature, and potential economic benefits of an offset. These three sub-categories are all necessary for a program to have an aspect of “additionality”. Additionality is a unique part of the definition of a carbon offset, and references the idea that further invested monies from the consumer, beyond the price of electric power, is necessary for the continuation of the program either through maintenance costs, continued growth of infrastructure, or further innovation. Cost effectiveness is the theoretical and future net gain of investing in an offset program. Finally, we want our recommendation to have an education component or have educational potential for the Bates College community.

Our final recommendations were determined through the use of our defined criteria of a meaningful carbon offset program. The programs contained in this report will provide Bates College with a variety of options on how to achieve climate neutrality in a meaningful and sustainable way.