Energy & climate consultancy Ecofys has led a consortium helping the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to establish product level greenhouse gas emission benchmarks for various production processes.

The team comprised Ecofys staff and researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Northwestern University. The benchmarks will be used to determine the amounts of free emission allowances for individual plants in the California cap-and-trade programme.

The cap-and-trade is one of the policy instruments that the state of California has adopted to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Participants in the programme need to balance their greenhouse gas emissions with emission allowances. The total amount of allowances in the programme, the cap, is reduced over time, ensuring reductions in emissions and creating a price signal for allowances.

To protect local industry and facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy, facilities receive a number of emission allowances for free. Paul Blinde, project leader at Ecofys explain,: “We developed benchmarks that specify an amount of emission allowances per ton of product produced. We needed to create a transparent, fair way to define products and to determine the emissions associated with that product. The challenge lay in designing a method that allowed us to compare plants that produce many different products.” The project team particularly looked at petroleum refineries and food processors.”

“A one-size-fits-all approach can’t be applied to the manufacturing sector,” said Eric Masanet, project leader at Northwestern University and associate professor of engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, “and the team’s product-based approaches reflect that reality.”

The team submitted their final report to the Air Resources Board of the California Environmental Protection Agency on 30 June. The results from the project will help to shape the cap-and-trade programme of California and could serve as a model for the rest of the US. Ecofys has helped shape the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and is a leading expert in the field of market based mechanisms. Currently Ecofys is also supporting the Tianjin Climate Exchange in China with development of the Tianjin Emissions Trading System, one of the seven pilot ETS currently under development in China.

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Established in 1984 with the mission of achieving “sustainable energy for everyone”, Ecofys has become the leading expert in renewable energy, energy & carbon efficiency, energy systems & markets as well as energy & climate policies. The unique synergy between those areas of expertise is the key to its success. Ecofys creates smart, effective, practical and sustainable solutions for and with public and corporate clients all over the world. With offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and the US, Ecofys employs over 250 experts dedicated to solving energy and climate challenges.