Here in Canada, we’re a pretty conscientious bunch. Especially when it comes to green events. But for most of us, hosting a “green energy” event is a bit of a mystery. And it can seem a lot more complicated than it actually is. So what do you need to know?
You may be sourcing some green energy by default
Canada has diverse energy sources. In fact, over 77 per cent of our electricity comes from non- fossil fuel sources: 61 per cent is from hydro; 14 per cent is nuclear, and three per cent comes from other renewables like wind, tidal, solar and biomass. However the energy mix can range greatly region to region.
The Yukon, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island derive the majority (but not all) of their power from hydro or other renewables that don’t emit greenhouse gases. The Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia see more than 50 per cent of their energy derived from fossil fuels, which do contribute to climate change. Ontario is an outlier with significant nuclear energy use compared to the other provinces (Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2013).
What does this mean? It means the onsite carbon footprint of your event can vary significantly depending on what destination you select and what portion of power comes from fossil fuels. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid or penalize destinations that may not source green energy currently. But it does mean you might want to consider buying additional green power for your event to help move all of Canada toward more climate-friendly energy sources.
Green energy can add to your experience
Sometimes, using green energy is more about injecting a bit of fun into the experience. Maybe you’re using solar-powered food trucks or people-powered snack carts. And who doesn’t love a good DJ powered by a human hamster wheel? (For more ideas check out this article.)
All of these ideas can add interest to your event. One thing to be aware of, however, is the portion of actual green energy generated, or energy reduced through these novel experiences, can often be small. Small – but very fun!
Your event can help get more green on the grid
The bad news is it’s not yet possible to simply “turn on” green power for your meeting. There is no magic switch that enables the electrons that power a hotel ballroom to suddenly come only from renewables. This is because renewable energy gets mixed with power from other sources as it is added to the grid, much like tributaries feeding into a river.
However, there are ways to ensure a greater portion of power to your event is renewable in future. One way is to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for your event. A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is created for each megawatt-hour (1 MWh, or 1000 kilowatt-hours) of renewable electricity generated and delivered to the power grid, which can then be purchased.
It reduces the need for one MWh of conventional electricity, avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental effects related to conventional electricity generation. By making the choice to buy RECs, you are displacing your emissions and supporting clean power.
In Canada, RECs support the development of different technologies such as hydro and wind power within the provinces. The more renewable energy projects there are in Canada, the less you will need to rely on burning fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
To learn what steps to take to measure and mitigate the electricity emissions of your next event through RECs read on.
Green energy is important to corporate event clients, climate and Canada
One important reason to consider powering your event with green energy is because your company or corporate event client may be carbon-conscious. Today, many companies are paying attention to their carbon bottom line. They are counting carbon and accounting for their emissions like never before. Green energy experiences and REC purchases help you align with their goals in a relatively easy way, which can also be sponsored .
If that isn’t sufficient, green energy matters to us all on a personal level. Curbing emissions caused by fossil fuels is essential to avoid exposing communities around the world to increasingly dangerous forest fires, extreme weather, drought and other climate impacts, something that no region in Canada is immune to (source: World Resources Institute).
It’s not as costly or as difficult as you might think
The process of buying RECs is surprisingly easy. It involves working with a provider, such as TerraPass, to estimate how many kWh of energy your event will use, and negotiating a price for an equivalent purchase of RECs. The ultimate cost can vary depending on the size and nature of your event. A small one-day meeting may be less than $100, with large multi-day events going up from there. Ongoing purchases can also be cheaper, where you commit to sourcing on a regular basis. And don’t forget, your venues and hotels may already be sourcing renewables, so be sure to ask before you buy!
Buying green energy for your event can be an easy way to put your money where your values are. And where communicated to event participants, it can reflect positively on you and the partners who sponsor these efforts. Plus, compared to other green event measures, like providing a recycling and composting program, it is actually surprisingly easy. Have you made the switch?