LEED Certification & Green Building FAQ

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What is LEED®

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a green building certification process developed by the US Green Building Council® (USGBC).  LEED certification provides independent verification that a building or home was designed using LEED green building environmental strategies and standards.

What role does green power play in LEED certification?

Even the most energy efficient buildings consume electricity from an energy infrastructure that is detrimental to the environment. The LEED Energy and Atmosphere Green Power Credit allows your project to choose renewable energy, offering points toward LEED green building certification that significantly reduce a project’s environmental impact. The ongoing development of the U.S. Green Building Council’s various LEED credit systems has weighted more and more points toward the Green Power LEED Credit and the on-site and off-site renewable energy credit(s).

How is green power purchasing rewarded in the LEED certification process?

Projects pursuing LEED credit can earn up to seven LEED green building points by purchasing green power to offset a building’s energy use.  LEED Certification for commercial interiors achieve five points toward certification through offsetting 50% of their power while New Constructions and Schools achieve two points for offsetting 35% of their power.  All existing buildings can earn one to six points for offsetting different levels of their power consumption.

What is green power?

Renewable energy facilities generate renewable energy credits (RECs) when they produce electricity. Purchasing these credits is the widely accepted way to address the environmental footprint of electricity consumption. RECs ensure that the amount of electricity your project consumes is added to the power grid from a renewable energy facility. Whether purchased from GPG or a local utility’s green pricing program, both systems are based on the purchase of RECs.  GPG offers the same product as a local utility company but at a fraction of the price and with numerous value-added services.

How should LEED projects offset emissions?

Electricity usage for LEED Green Buildings should be offset with Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on a kWh‐to‐kWh (or Btu-to‐Btu) basis.  Natural gas, steam or other heating emissions should be converted to metric tons of CO2 equivalent and offset with direct carbon offsets or Verified Emissions Reductions (VERS) noted below.

What role does the Energy and Atmosphere Credit 4 play in LEED® certification?

Even the most energy efficient buildings consume electricity from an energy infrastructure that is detrimental to the environment. The LEED Energy and Atmosphere Credit 4 (EA 4 or EAC4) allows projects for existing buildings to choose renewable energy, offering points toward LEED certification that significantly reduce an existing building’s environmental impact. The ongoing development of the U.S. Green Building Council’s® various LEED rating systems has weighted more and more points toward the Green Power Credit and the on-site and off-site renewable energy credit.

What role does the Energy and Atmosphere Credit 6 play in LEED® certification?

There are energy infrastructures that are harmful for the environment and no matter how energy efficient a building may be, it will still use electricity from one of these sources. As new construction projects are developed, the Energy and Atmosphere Credit 6 (EAC6) will provide opportunity for those projects to choose renewable energy. When a new building project pursues EAC6 it will significantly reduce its environmental impact and offer points toward LEED certification. More and more point have been weighted for on-site and off-site RECs as well as the LEED Green Power Credit by the various LEED rating systems as part of the ongoing development of the U.S. Green Building Council®.

How does the LEED certification process reward EAC6?

When you purchase green power credits to help offset your building’s environmental impact you can earn LEED certification points. Below is a chart of certification levels:

2-Year Electricity Usage Offset w/ Green Power

Certification%Points AvailableNotes
New Construction35 – 70%2 – 3
Core + Shell35 – 70%2 – 3Core + Shell electricity
usage is 15% of total
building electricity demand
Schools35 – 70%2 – 3

Carbon Offset Credits FAQ

What is a carbon offset?

A carbon offset, or carbon offset credit, ensures that a metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2), or its equivalent in other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), is removed from the atmosphere or prevented from entering it.

What does “equivalent” mean?

Carbon dioxide is not the only GHG. Others – for example methane and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – either trap more heat or last longer (or both) in the atmosphere than CO2. Offsetting these other gases is “worth” more than offsetting CO2, and this additional value is measured in tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). For example: the Kyoto Protocol considers a ton of methane equivalent to 25 tons of CO2 when released into the atmosphere.

What’s a verified emissions reduction (VER)?

A VER is the unit of currency in voluntary carbon purchasing: one VER represents one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided or removed from the atmosphere. Every project’s carbon reduction efforts are captured in the value of its voluntary emissions reductions. VERs are often contrasted to Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) used in compliance markets.

What are examples of offset projects?

There are two types of offset projects: emissions reduction projects and carbon sequestration projects.  Emissions reduction projects prevent carbon emissions by making emitting systems more efficient or by destroying the emissions themselves (e.g. burning the methane byproduct of agricultural or municipal waste).  Carbon sequestration projects remove carbon emissions that are already in the atmosphere.  This can be accomplished through forestry practices, as plants absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, or by capturing carbon from emitting sources and storing it in the ground.  Both types of offset projects result in carbon reduction.

Why would an organization purchase carbon offset credits?

Carbon offset credits provide a means to become carbon neutral by offsetting GHG emissions, which account for a large portion of many environmental footprints.

What is the appropriate strategy for using carbon offset credits and renewable energy credits (RECs) given an organization’s GHG emissions?

RECs can account for Scope 2 emissions and that carbon offset credits are used to account for Scope 1 and 3 emissions.  RECs are the industry standard for offsetting the pollution caused by electricity generation.  A REC purchase ensures the generation of a specific amount of renewable energy to offset fossil fuel generation and helps create a carbon-free power system. Carbon offset credits address direct emissions and those indirect emissions not associated with the consumption of purchased electricity, while fueling the demand for increased voluntary mitigation efforts and carbon reduction.

What’s the difference between a compliance offset and a voluntary one?

Compliance offsets are designed for use in a regulatory scheme, like those designed to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. In order to qualify in a regulated market, carbon project developers must spend a great deal of time and money on administration and paperwork. The voluntary carbon market supports projects from the Canada and other industrial countries that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol as well as smaller-scale projects in developing countries that cannot afford the bureaucracy and expense of the compliance market.  Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol on December 12, 2011.

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