The term green electricity is not protected, and therefore the green electricity tariffs are divided into eco-based and eco-sustainable tariffs for better differentiation. And the difference is quite significant. With the basic eco tariffs, the electricity can come from nuclear power and combined heat and power or renewable energy sources. However, it is enough to declare electricity as green electricity if the energy provider compensates for the CO2 emissions caused. This compensation can take place, for example, in the form of the European Energy Certificate System, which is referred to as EECS or EECS-GoO for short.
The EECS is based on an EU directive from 2009 and replaced the Renewable Energy Certificate Systems, or RECS for short, in 2016. In principle, however, the certificates hardly differ.
With the EECS/RECS, certificates are issued for each ecologically generated megawatt-hour of electricity. These certificates may be resold. In practice, for example, it looks like this: If a Norwegian energy supplier produces green electricity using hydropower, it receives the corresponding number of EECS-GoO certificates. If a nuclear power plant operator buys these EECS-GoO certificates from him, he can, in return, sell his nuclear energy as green electricity. The seller of the actual green electricity, on the other hand, sells the green electricity generated from hydropower as conventional electricity.
The proof of origin, HKNR for short, which the Federal Environment Agency has issued since 2012, works similarly to the EECS certificate. The energy suppliers must prove when and in which regenerative power plant the green electricity was generated.
The guarantees of origin are issued by the operators of the plants for the generation of renewable energies. Therefore, it is irrelevant where in Europe green electricity was produced. According to the Federal Environment Agency, most of the guarantees of origin in 2018 came from Norway at 42.38 percent. Next comes Germany with 13.37 percent, Austria with 9.46 percent, France with 8.19 percent, and Sweden with 7.17 percent.
In short, the basic eco tariffs do not contribute to the energy transition and the expansion of regenerative power plants.
The requirements are significantly stricter with the eco-sustainable tariffs than with the eco-basic tariffs. As a rule, the providers generate the green electricity themselves from renewable energies. If this is not the case, the electricity supplier must prove that it is making a significant contribution to developing and expanding the regional green electricity network. You can recognize the genuinely sustainable green tariffs through green certificates such as the green electricity label and the OK-Power seal of approval.
What is the significance of green electricity certificates?
Since the liberalization of the electricity market, providers have been courting customers, and it is not always easy to find out whether it is "real" green electricity or whether greenwashing is actually behind what appears to be a good offer.
Therefore, the green electricity certificates from renowned and, above all, independent organizations such as the green electricity label and the OK-Power seal are helpful when selecting the energy supplier. However, the requirements for certification vary by organization. There is, however, consensus on one point: the electricity provider must neither push the expansion of conventional electricity generation nor participate in the construction of new nuclear or coal-fired power plants.
The certification is associated with a not inconsiderable cost, and young companies, in particular, cannot or do not always want to invest money in it. Suppose an energy company does not have a green electricity seal. In that case, this does not necessarily mean that it does not offer pure green electricity or does not rely on renewable energies.