Integrity is everything: Monitoring and evaluation techniques to build trust and add value — Take-Aways from our Carbon Finance Webinars

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This blog was published on 4th January 2024.

Carbon finance is generating much excitement in the distributed solar industry though the opportunity remains tantalisingly out of reach for most companies. In response to this interest, GOGLA has been hosting a six-part webinar series for our members, with a) the aim of increasing our collective understanding of this potential revenue stream and b) exploring the requirements for the off-grid solar (OGS) sector to create and sell high-integrity offsets.

The first two sessions gave us an introduction of the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) for the OGS sector and offered an insight into the realm of certification methodologies. During the third session on the 14th of December, we learned monitoring and verification techniques to build trust and add value. Learnings from a verification body (Carbon Check), IoT provider (InnoVex) and open-source platform (Prospect) are summarized here:

1. There is a need to improve the integrity of carbon credits by ensuring a robust baseline, solid methodology and independent verification
COP28 has brought some good news for the VCM, with commitments by all the parties to triple the role out of renewables signalling potential for increased revenue streams flowing into the OGS sector. For OGS to tap into this stream, high integrity carbon credits has to be ensured, which can come with significant costs. At COP, there were agreements on standardisation of contracts of highly rated credits and common principles for the quantification and accounting of GHG removal and reductions. Interestingly, half of the participants of the webinar is still confident that the VCM is a good way to raise carbon finance.

2. Transactions costs of validation and verification vary by project
Factors that may drive up the costs for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) are: 1) higher risk project location and larger distribution area, 2) stricter certification standards, 3) the need for a stratified or cluster survey vs a sampling survey with specified parameters instead of default parameters 4) a larger amount of different technologies and Voluntary Project Activities (VPA) that are involved in one project 5) a larger scale of the project or a Project of Activities (PoA) as compared to a standalone project. Generally speaking, the validation costs accounted by Carbon Check are between 12,000 and 20,000 US dollars for one project.

3. Digitalisation makes it faster and cheaper to do monitoring and verification
Digitalization of remote monitoring systems can significantly reduce the costs of validation and verification, as well as providing an easy tool for operations and maintenance for OGS companies. REMOT, the solution provided by InnoVex Uganda, is a combination of universal hardware and cloud-based software that allows companies to track many different performance parameters. For carbon credits, energy consumption and energy production are the most important. The platform can be used for a range of products and appliances – SWPs, solar home systems, solar-powered base stations, and along the full cold chain.

4. Measuring co-benefits for consumers can increase revenue
Digitization and IoT devices can also facilitate automatic measuring, monitoring, and recording of impacts beyond emission savings, such as health impacts and benefits to women. If positive impacts on consumers can be monetised better, the costs-benefit could be improved. Almost half of the participants polled thinks that monitoring co-benefits is as important as monitoring GHG emissions savings, whilst an equal number is neutral on the statement. OGS companies acquiring carbon credits using REMOT and raising increased revenue, are now able to offer free aftersales services to their consumers, a substantial benefit for the consumer and planet.

5. Intermediaries are essential partners to play in the carbon market
Carbon Clear is a leading intermediary in the carbon market for the off-grid solar industry. They calculate the emission savings using an adjusted version of the UNFCCC Standard and sell the aggregated carbon credits to buyers in their network. Platforms such as Prospect and REMOT of Innovex can facilitate the collection and integration of data with such intermediaries. Prospect, a free and open-sourced platform standardizes and aggregates data that is collected from various sources, such as an OGS company’s CRM or Mobile Money provider. When the accuracy of the sale is checked as well as double reporting, the data is ready for verification with a verification agency, such as Carbon Check.

What’s Next? Learn more on the role of intermediaries and disruptors in our next webinar on 18 January at 14 pm CET. Keep an eye out for the GOGLA Member Briefing to register.

We would like to thank our partners and speakers – Catherine Allinson, Director, Future Earth, David Tusubira, CTO, InnoVex, Anubhav Dimri, CEO, Carbon Check and Victoire Cowley-Gottlieb, Advisor GET.Invest (Prospect)– for their insightful contributions towards the second webinar in the series.

The Carbon Finance webinar series is being funded by GET.invest, a European programme that mobilises investment in renewable energy, supported by the European Union, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria.

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