How to power your vacation rentals with renewable energy

Renewable energy credits: run your short-term rental on renewable energy even if you do not have access to a green tariff or supplier


One of the easiest and most effective ways to green up your vacation rentals is to switch to renewable energy. This will mean that you will be lowering your carbon emissions and your carbon footprint. It is really important that we lower carbon emissions globally as burning fossil fuels is the main driver of climate change.

In December you will hear the world talking about carbon emissions as COP28 takes place in Dubai. This is the time of year when the world’s nations come together to agree actions for their individual states and review climate targets. COP21 in Paris in 2015 set the definitive goal of keeping the global temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Currently, we are not on track to achieve this. However, many climate scientists and experts do agree that we still have a window of opportunity to half emissions by 2030. If we all play our part – however small – this increases our chances of achieving this.

Read on to find out how you can quickly reduce the carbon emissions from your properties by switching to renewable energy.


1.What are the options available currently for purchasing green energy?

For most property owners, it is probably not feasible to install photovoltaic solar panels to meet all their electricity requirements. The investment could be prohibitive or the building itself may not be suitable.

There are currently three options available for switching to renewable energy.

  1. Change to a green energy tariff with your existing supplier.
  2. Move to a green energy provider even though you will not be using just their renewable energy production.
  3. Purchase Guarantees of Origin (GOs) in the EU or Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)* in the U.S. To prove that the energy you are using has been produced from green sources, such as wind, solar and hydro.

* For the purposes of this article, we are going to use the American abbreviation ‘REC’ from Renewable Energy Certificate.

The first two alternatives seem like the easiest to do. However, in most parts of the world, utility companies do not offer green tariffs or there are no green energy providers.

The overriding point to remember is that the energy which comes down the power cable to your property may be a mixture of energy produced by fossil fuels as well as renewable sources. You may be able to see the percentages by energy source on your current supplier’s bill. However, you cannot say – I just want the green energy! Even if you buy from a 100% renewable energy supplier, you are still (in a physical sense) getting a mix of sources.




2. What is the easiest way to purchase green electricity?

As we have explained, utility companies in most places globally do not offer a green tariff. Even in places that do, these utilities often fail to provide sufficient evidence in the form of RECs. Consequently, this means that customers cannot verify their clean energy claims.  There is also a shortage of 100% green energy companies. There are some in Europe, such as Good Energy and Ecotricity in the UK and Enostra in Italy, but the market is still young.

The more satisfactory and transparent solution if you cannot change your current tariff nor find a renewable energy supplier is to purchase RECs. Subsequently, this means you can prove that 100% of the electricity you are using in your vacation rentals is from renewable sources. As a property owner or property management company, this allows you to promote this new “powered by renewables” amenity to help your property stand out.


DID YOU KNOW? – Running on 100% green electricity can get you up to 14.57% on the Sustonica criteria! Check out our standard.

Why is it part of the criteria? Global electricity generation is still largely created by burning fossil fuels, the main cause of carbon emissions and subsequent global warming. Transitioning to a fossil-free utilities network is a vital way of reducing carbon emissions.



3. How do you purchase Renewable Energy Certificates?

Companies like Zero Labs help small businesses procure RECs to decarbonize their purchased electricity. Vacation property owners or managers can choose to cover their entire annual electricity use with an equal volume of RECs. One REC equals 1 megawatt-hour of verified renewable energy generation. The property manager can then claim that the property’s electricity use is powered by 100% clean energy or its electricity use is carbon-free.

So, what is this all going to cost you? Not surprisingly, REC prices range widely depending on the country. You also have to consider the type of renewable energy resource, the age of the project, and so on. In the U.S. prices range from under $1 to over $100 per megawatt-hour (ie, per REC). Most country prices fall in the $5-30 range.

Grape Escapes owned by Momento Stays recently became a Sustonica verified property. Its Founder, Jaydon Robinson, contacted Sustonica before he even started to market his property. He had already taken the decision that he wanted to promote it as an eco-friendly vacation rental.  Jaydon worked with Zero Labs to purchase RECs as an important part of Momento Stay’s sustainability strategy.



4. How can property management companies help their owners purchase RECs?

Property management companies can empower their owners to become eco-friendly by making RECs available to them. This also helps owners to gain the minimum score of 20% in the Sustonica criteria. Once they have their badge, they can showcase themselves as a verified sustainable place to stay.

Property management companies can work with a company like Zero Labs as an easy way to create an opt-in clean energy programme for their owners. In this way, you will be providing RECs to your properties as proof that they are powered with 100% clean energy. In addition, Zero Labs provides digital evidence to each property owner in the form of “Green Proofs”. Your owners can use this green credential in their marketing communication to differentiate their properties. Furthermore, as the property management company, you can promote yourself as a sustainable business too. You could even purchase RECs to green up the energy from your own operations.

Zero Labs offers a revenue share to property management companies who create clean energy programmes. You can take a pre-defined percentage share of the revenues from REC purchases by your participating property owners. This could be shown as an administration fee.



5. Are RECs an alternative to carbon offsetting?

RECs are a real alternative to carbon offsetting and a more suitable solution for decarbonizing your electricity use. RECs prove that a certain amount of your purchased electricity is carbon-free. Whereas, carbon offset credits are used to neutralize your produced emissions by absorbing the equal amount based on an estimate of your carbon pollution. RECs leverage verified data from meters that electric grid operators review. In addition, there is one REC standard and tracking system per geographic market (usually per country). RECs are essentially the receipt for your clean energy purchase.

On the other hand, carbon offsets use modelled data about the expected emissions absorbed by an offset project that need to be measured and verified year after year. Also, there are dozens of carbon offset standards and tracking systems. More importantly, RECs help finance the decarbonization of the power sector—the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Offsets do not change the underlying sources of emissions. In fact, it is often said that they allow for ‘business as usual’. In this way, they should only be used as a “last resort” solution after all other measures have been adopted. Following the Sustonica criteria will ensure that you are aware of all these methods for reducing your energy consumption and your carbon emissions.

Another point to be aware of in relation to carbon offsetting is the new EU greenwashing regulation soon to be introduced. Businesses will not be able to use terms like carbon neutral without the correct evidence and carbon offsets will not be allowed in this context. RECs are the standardized market instrument for any energy customer claim about what portion of their purchased electricity is carbon-free. You cannot make a green energy claim without RECs unless you are totally off-grid.


Switching to renewal energy is one of the simplest sustainable actions you can take and will set you well on your way to gaining your Sustonica badge!


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