Ever.green's Solar Scorecard
Quantifying the environmental, economic, and social impact of new solar
The science is clear – if the world is to avoid the worst outcomes from climate change, we need to reach net zero by 2050. In order to achieve this, the amount of electricity from renewable sources produced globally must double by 2030, and the U.S. needs to be fully operating on clean power by 2035. While the US added 27.7 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid in 2021, renewables still only make up 19.8% of our total electricity, so we need to be deploying new projects at a much faster rate. However, there are impacts from clean energy that go beyond the amount of electricity added to the grid, like benefits to local communities, habitat impacts, and workforce development. Ever.green is committed to addressing these concerns and meeting a high-bar for responsible project development, so we created a Solar Scorecard to help us quantify our efforts.
The Ever.green Solar Scorecard is an evolution of Salesforce’s More Than a Megawatt framework (MTaM), a set of guidelines used for assessing the impacts of a renewable energy project outside of the physical electrons produced. While we think MTaM does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for a higher standard, there were areas that we wanted to expand on or revise. Atlassian, one of Ever.green’s first corporate sponsors, has provided resources for defining our high-bar and vital feedback throughout the development process. They included a link to the Scorecard within their 2022 sustainability report. We’ve also solicited opinions and incorporated suggestions from numerous other organizations including The Nature Conservancy and St. Philip's College.
The Scorecard consists of four themes - Ensure Additionality, Maximize Climate Impact, Minimize Environmental Harms, and Maximize Social Benefits.
Ensure additionality is the first theme because it is a requirement for Ever.green projects. Many companies want to make sure that the money they are spending on the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) used to green up their energy is actually resulting in a reduction in emissions, which unfortunately is not always the case. Ever.green’s projects require financial backing from our sponsors, in the form of long-term forward REC purchase agreements, in order to get off the ground. Without these investments from our sponsors, the project's returns would not be high enough to get financed—which means that our sponsors are truly enabling additional renewable energy.
Maximize climate impact incentivizes building renewables where the grid is dirtiest, resulting in more avoided emissions. Aiming for a lower cost per watt also allows you to build more solar with the same budget. We work with WattTime to help quantify avoided emissions and are utilizing the tax incentives from the new Inflation Reduction Act to bring the costs down on our projects, allowing us to more easily build a lot of solar.
Minimize environmental harms looks at impacts of new solar on land and wildlife. Large utility-scale solar projects can easily require hundreds if not thousands of acres of land to be cleared for development, so habitat loss and negative impacts on local and migrating wildlife are a concern, especially as development accelerates. We spoke with The Nature Conservancy to get their input on best practices and co-benefits for solar development that can be utilized to reduce harm. The Scorecard incentivizes building projects on degraded land, with the most points awarded for building on brownfields (properties where future development is complicated by the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants). An upside of Ever.green’s 1-10 Megawatt Solar Fields is that they are located in and near cities and take up less than 75 acres of land, which allows for more strategic siting and avoids the pitfalls of massive wildlife deserts.
Maximize social benefits focuses on the transition to renewable energy and the impact on communities. From creating new jobs with fair wages, to lowering energy costs and improving air quality, there are lots of ways that clean energy development can be beneficial. Ever.green requires developers to use fair labor contracts and safety measures (e.g. a Responsible Contractor Policy), pay prevailing wages, and utilize a percentage of registered apprentices in the construction of the project, as outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Ever.green is also focusing on building new solar in and near low-income and minority communities. In order to make the energy transition beneficial to all, society must address environmental inequities that have historically exposed these groups to higher rates of pollution from fossil fuels. One of our first projects is in Laredo, a city on the border with Mexico where 30% of the population lives in poverty. We’re also engaging with workforce development programs both on our projects and on a national level. We’ve partnered with St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, a Historically Black College and Hispanic Serving Institution, to provide internship opportunities to students in their Alternative Energy workforce development course.
We’re super excited to continue iterating on this framework, especially as construction begins on our first solar projects in 2023. If you’re interested in learning more about our Solar Scorecard or downloading a copy, click here. For more information on Ever.green’s REC purchase agreements or renewable energy tax credits, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.