Not All Offsets Are Evil: Achieving Net-Zero Emissions

By: Pivot Energy

January 11 2023

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, corporations and governments across the world have committed to curbing global temperature rise and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, a critical threshold for avoiding the catastrophic impacts of climate change. We have limited time for action, and every sector in every market in every region must transform. A recent report from the United Nations (UN) found that there is still more work to be done to transition away from planet-warming fossil fuels, which are already pushing global temperatures higher and triggering more intense extreme weather events.

The UN report notes that “many net-zero targets remain uncertain and postpone into the future critical action that needs to take place now.” To limit our earth’s rising global temperatures, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be halved by 2030 and drop to net-zero by 2050. This change has already begun; thousands of organizations worldwide are leading the zero-carbon transformation by setting emissions reduction targets. However, only a limited subsection of this list of entities has put forth a detailed roadmap for how they intend to achieve this goal.

Some companies have become overly reliant on market-based solutions such as carbon offsets to claim carbon neutrality. This becomes problematic when they have no intention of actually reducing their own carbon emissions. Keep reading to learn more about how corporations can leverage another type of GHG reduction solution, funding renewable projects, to counteract their emissions in the short- and medium-term, as they work towards reaching their long-term goals for directly eliminating GHG emissions from their operations.

Greenwashing is NOT an End-All Solution

Many (but not all) companies are taking advantage of carbon offset markets simply to launch campaigns that boast their “success” in achieving net zero emissions. The bad news is that these companies are neglecting to put forth strategies for reducing carbon emissions from their day-to-day operations. The reality is that in the long run, we cannot offset our way out of this energy crisis; more substantive operational changes are needed.

Eventually, your business (and every business) will need to transition away from nearly all energy sources that generate GHG emissions; this includes your methods for transportation, shipping, agriculture, how you electrify buildings, your methods for constructing infrastructure, etc. In the long run, well over 90 percent of all energy on our planet will need to be generated from renewable energy sources. Nonetheless, we must not let our desire for perfection be the enemy of good progress. Offset programs are NOT intrinsically evil, in fact, they will serve as vital stepping stones in the short-term for many businesses. 

As we all embark towards the long-term goal of eliminating GHG emissions, we must not demonize the viable tools that can serve as stop-gap measures to fund beneficial projects that counteract emissions where there is not yet a technologically feasible way to reduce them directly.

Short and Medium-Term Solutions: Offsite Solar

Plenty of companies want to actively transition away from “dirty” methods of energy production but are unable to do so because they may not own the building in which they currently operate, or perhaps they do not have a roof that’s suitable for hosting a solar array. Flexible offsite solutions reduce the barrier to entry for companies that want to take immediate action and fight climate change.

Organizations with a large virtual footprint and energy load are especially suited for the following options. Whether you have a complicated multi-site portfolio, a large energy load, or aggressive sustainability commitments, there is an offsite solar option that will fit your needs. Community solar, virtual power purchase agreements (VPPAs), and impact PPAs (IPPAs) are three different ways in which businesses, municipalities, organizations, and residents can outsource solar energy generation instead of building solar modules directly on their properties.

Community solar subscriptions offset the subscribers’ electrical usage with solar energy, by sending solar energy generated by the solar project directly to the power grid. Subscribers receive solar bill credits from the utility for the energy that is produced by the offsite solar array. The solar billing credits reduce the subscribers’ overall utility bill, saving them money. Additionally, with the guaranteed subscription revenue from the community solar project, solar developers like Pivot are able to get more clean, solar projects built and on the grid.  

VPPAs and IPPAs are two unique forms of a PPA where the renewable energy project is located offsite from the customer’s property, delivering electricity to the local grid instead of directly to the customer. With a VPPA, the customer settles financially for the renewable energy certificates (RECs) from their share of what the project produces, and they still purchase electricity from the grid to meet their demand as normal. 

Impact PPAs represent the latest evolution of the clean energy industry by allowing business leaders to select solar projects that go beyond just generating clean energy by benefiting communities through strategic site selection, responsible development, and local reinvestment. By choosing an Impact PPA, your business can realize even greater environmental and social impact – all while cutting costs and reducing your carbon footprint.

Find a Partner for Reaching Long-Term Decarbonization

Now is the time to start working with a trusted partner and participate in accelerating this world-changing shift. The Pivot team is here to match your company with our nationwide portfolio of solar projects. Our offsite team of wholesale energy experts and community engagement professionals will match you to the project and contract that best fits your goals. Pivot also develops, owns, and operates these projects to create the greatest value for stakeholders and communities that matter most to you. Additionally, our team will help you amplify your clean energy decisions with press, marketing materials, and more to communicate your impact to your customers, board, employees, and community. Contact us today to learn more! 



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