Tracking Utilization of Renewable Energy
We speak to Ben Gerber, CEO of Midwest Renewable Tracking System (M-RETS), a nationwide REC (Renewable Energy Certificate) tracking system. Now, what does this mean and what is the importance behind it?
It comes down to this: energy, once it is on the grid, can’t be traced back to its original source. So, in order to meet legal mandates around usage and sustainability, utilities companies verify compliance through a third-party registry like M-RETS. To ensure compliance, what M-RETS does is essentially creates a renewable energy certificate (REC) that is bought and sold independent of electricity itself. This ultimately offers a more trustworthy way of tracking that energy’s ownership as it passes through different hands over time.
When asked to describe one big issue M-RETS looks to solve, Ben points to technology. In the industry so far “because of regulations and other things, it’s easy to just not innovate.” For his company, one example of challenging that stagnation is being one of the first companies in the world to offer hourly data in their tracking system. Ben wants to take that ability to track even further: including estimated avoided emissions data, what the marginal fuel is, and so on.
According to Ben, the biggest benefit to M-RETS’ mission would be a national tracking system with more consistent policy across the board. This would prevent over-procurement and would give a better idea of what works needs to be done to increase sustainability across national energy grids. That said, Ben recognizes the pitfalls of increased access to data. Specifically in the way that data might influence people’s behavior. He has this to say: “We all want data, but if we don’t use it correctly, how valuable is it?”