In a number of countries, wind energy is growing out of its original subsidised markets and governments are seeking new ways of providing the technology with fair access to Europe's electricity customers. An obligation on suppliers to include renewables in their electricity supply portfolios, backed by trade in green credits, is the route now chosen by the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The RECerT project intends to define the costs and benefits of an international green certificate market, assess its likely size and value in Europe, and help to minimise barriers to green credit trade. A live Europe-wide internet-based trading simulation will demonstrate how a green certificate market could work.
"There's currently a lack of clarity over EU policy on certificate systems and individual member states are developing systems at different speeds, with different characteristics. It's going to be very important to achieve a basic compatibility between national systems if international trading is to work well," says project manager Christopher Crookall-Fallon of Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD), based in the UK.
The RECerT project is the largest of three part-funded by the European Commission's Fifth Framework Program and grouped in a "green electricity cluster." The others are InTraCert by Dutch agency ECN, and ELGREEN by the Technical University of Vienna.
RECerT describes a green certificate as a "tradable economic instrument that embodies the environmental benefit, or alternatively the societal value, of renewable electricity production." Since the environmental benefit is universal it makes sense to trade it across national boundaries separately from the physical power. "By adopting this trade, a much larger market for green power is potentially opened and stimulated," says the group. In this way the costs and risks of finance can be reduced, and the development of new renewable energy capacity maximised on an EU-wide basis.
"As the international carbon market slowly develops, a real value will emerge for the CO2 emission reduction credits from renewable energy schemes," says Crookall-Fallon. "But that market is still undeveloped, and in the meantime green certificate trading systems could help us all to better understand the operation of such markets," he concludes.