Baker Center Paper: Better Accounting Will Help Reduce Carbon Emissions

Jacob LaRiviere, a Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy Fellow and adjunct professor at UT, and senior researcher at Microsoft, has released a policy brief on reducing carbon emissions through the use of a better accounting method that quantifies the impacts of renewable energy produced in different locations on the power grid.

Jacob LaRiviere, Baker Center Fellow at UT and senior researcher at Microsoft.

Jacob LaRiviere, Baker Center Fellow at UT and senior researcher at Microsoft.

Society’s ability to reduce carbon emissions depends in part on how accurately pollution can be measured. While current accounting methods have done a good job at creating widely adopted standards, they do not accurately reflect the fact that renewable energy generation can have a different impact on carbon emissions depending on where and when the energy is produced.

LaRiviere teamed with Gavin McCormick, an economist and the founder of WattTime.org, and Sho Kawano, a University of California, Berkeley, statistics student, to produce the brief.

The authors identify both environmental and financial reasons to adopt better accounting methods in reporting carbon reductions.

“We show with a simple example that this widespread accounting practice can mis-measure carbon savings by up to 45 percent,” said LaRiviere. “Recent advances in estimating the emissions foregone from renewable energy generation have made significantly more accurate accounting now entirely practical.

“There are environmental and financial reasons why the most accurate emissions accounting would be socially valuable—it would allow for locations which offset more carbon to be identified and thus receive more investment.”

Technological innovations in measuring how increased renewable generation causes reductions in fossil fuel generation makes better accounting now possible. As a result, the authors are able to show a modest change to current accounting protocols that would enable both governments and companies to reduce carbon emissions faster and cheaper by adjusting their renewable energy purchases.

CONTACT:

Matt Murray (865-974-6084, mmurray1@utk.edu)

Nissa Dahlin-Brown (865-974-8681, nissa@utk.edu)