Zach Starsia, Director of Transactions, LevelTen Energy discusses how their Impact+ Score™ can help companies go beyond carbon-free.
Our current global moment is a complex and consequential one. As the world increasingly feels the impacts of climate change, a high-stakes race to cut emissions across all sectors is underway.
This mass-decarbonization effort already represents an unprecedented challenge. But a worldwide pandemic has made matters even more difficult, bringing tragic loss of life, substantial economic and supply chain disruptions, and the further exposure of far-reaching socioeconomic inequities. While the COP26 climate summit and the recently passed U.S. infrastructure bill do hold some promise for increased governmental decarbonization support, it is clearer than ever that the private sector must play a central role in driving the transition to a sustainable future. Faced with a wide array of critical issues, today’s organizations need to think holistically — and use innovative new approaches — to address these pressing environmental, economic, and social concerns.
Over the last decade, renewable energy projects have increasingly found financing through corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) — a wave of procurement led by buyers such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and many others. But today’s organizations are not only working to reduce emissions; they’re also looking to play their part in supporting local economies, reducing social inequities, and protecting vulnerable ecosystems. In recent years, innovative and committed buyers have been proving that thoughtfully procured PPAs can have an outsized impact not only on carbon reductions, but on a variety of other pressing matters. And developers are responding — engaging more and more with town councils and area residents early on in the development process to understand community needs from the outset, and develop projects that advance local goals. These organizations are not only leading grid decarbonization efforts, but are increasingly doing so with an eye for optimizing the many co-benefits renewable build-out can bring.
Starting with standards: going beyond carbon-free
We believe the massive scale of the energy transition is also an opportunity to advance a wide array of economic, community, and conservation objectives. That’s why LevelTen Energy, The Nature Conservancy, and The National Audubon Society have published guiding principles for impactful renewable development and procurement — a first step in what we hope will be an ongoing and collaborative effort to build and enact increasingly beneficial ways of doing business for the renewable industry. These principles consist of three central pillars that enable a more holistic development approach, which we’ve dubbed the “3 C’s:” Community, Conservation, and Climate. The resulting white paper, Beyond Carbon-Free: A Framework for Purpose-Led Renewable Energy Procurement and Development, provides guidance on how renewable energy buyers can incorporate these objectives into the core of the PPA procurement process, and how renewable developers can build projects with an eye for maximizing all potential benefits their work can bring.
Turning guidance into action: introducing Impact+ Score™
Standard practices are a crucial first step, and we are committed to improving and updating these principles moving forward with input from all those impacted by the energy transition. But building a guiding framework for impactful development is not enough. To incorporate these priorities into the heart of how our industry operates, we need data and tools that will allow buyers to identify and contract with high-impact projects at the scale and speed the climate crisis demands. Leveraging the Impact Procurement Principles detailed in Beyond Carbon-Free, LevelTen Energy is bringing new levels of transparency to offers on the world’s largest renewable energy marketplace.
Introducing LevelTen Energy’s Impact+ Score™: the first comprehensive measurement of a renewable project’s community, conservation, and climate impacts — represented in a single metric. By aggregating extensive data related to a project’s siting practices, community benefits, supply chain, and much more, LevelTen’s Impact+ Score™ provides a concise yet thorough representation of a project’s total impact beyond just the carbon-free electricity it delivers. For renewable buyers and developers looking to maximize our industry’s potential to bring broad-reaching economic, environmental, and societal benefits, Impact+ provides a standard framework to measure and communicate these nuanced, but consequential, aspects of project build-out.
So how does Impact+ work? Using input from project developers, third-party data, and sophisticated analytics, LevelTen Energy delivers focused data that allows buyers to quickly assess every offer in the LevelTen Energy Marketplace based on projected financial performance, various risks, and development maturity. Now, developers can also complete a questionnaire on their project’s community, conservation, and climate impacts — producing an Impact+ Score. This score is presented alongside existing offer metrics and delivers greater transparency into which projects will deliver maximum positive impact. For developers who prioritize ensuring their projects boost local economies and are sited to minimize environmental impacts, the Impact+ Score delivers greater visibility and awareness of those efforts among PPA offtakers — helping them stand out from their peers.
LevelTen’s Impact+ Score™ aggregates a wide range of important project criteria — from whether or not a developer employs a diverse local workforce, to if a project avoids being constructed near threatened ecosystems and habitats. For buyers looking to procure from the most impactful projects, the Impact+ Score can save weeks of extended project vetting — and crucially, has the potential to do so for thousands of renewable offers on the LevelTen Energy Marketplace. It’s a major step forward in how buyers assess and prioritize the extended benefits of renewable deals.
You are what you measure
With this succinct summary of a project’s holistic impact embedded as a core functionality of the LevelTen Energy Marketplace, renewable buyers and developers can work together to build and contract from projects that provide robust community and ecosystem services — at the speed and scale needed to tackle the climate crisis head on. By making it easier to take a more holistic procurement approach, and through increasing the visibility of projects with a high Impact+ Score, LevelTen is enhancing the value of projects that do more.
Leveraging the already immense collective will of our industry to bring positive change, we can extend the benefits the growth of clean energy will provide for local economies, ecosystems, and even climate impacts. To learn more about Impact Procurement Principles, download Beyond Carbon-Free here.