Disclosure: guarantees of origin

At the point and time of consumption, it is physically impossible to trace the origin of consumed electricity. Therefore, the system of guarantees of origin was created: a reliable parallel with the physical electricity flows that enables traceability of the origin of energy.

Guarantees of Origin can also be used to prove the origin of gas or heat and cold. Similar to GOs for electricity, they allow customers to buy gas, heat or cold from renewable energy sources, injected into gas or thermal networks. 

What is a Guarantee of Origin?

A Guarantee of Origin (GO) is an instrument to prove the origin of energy; so as to inform energy customers whether they use energy from renewable energy sources or qualitative CHP facilities for the cogeneration of electricity and heat.

GOs are issued in an internet-based electronic database to electricity, gas, heat and cold producers, per MWh of production of energy from renewable resources. They are the only lawful tool to prove the origin of the produced and supplied amount of energy.

Electricity suppliers may only call their supplied electricity in Flanders ‘electricity from renewable resources’ if they cancel a corresponding number of guarantees of origin to prove it. This implies that at the time of consumption of this amount of electricity from renewable sources, the corresponding number of GOs are taken out of circulation and destroyed, such that the electricity that actually has been generated from renewable energy sources may only be counted as such once. Therefore, GOs are the instrument to make green power contracts reliable.

Similarly, GOs can be used to track and trace green gas (such as biomethane and hydrogen from renewable sources) that has been injected into the gas grid, or that is otherwise distributed in a system with multiple consumers. This gas may only be supplied to the gas grid if certain technical requirements are met (such as CO2-concentration, heating value and odorisation). From the moment of injection, it is physically impossible to distinguish green and ‘gray’ gas in the distribution systems. Therefore, for each MWh of green gas injected into such a distribution system, one GO is issued to the producer. 

A GO can be transferred to an energy consumer who wants to prove the renewable origin of the energy they use. As soon as the energy has been used as gas from renewable sources (e.g., the supplied gas has been combusted), a GO needs to be cancelled. Even though the consumer may not directly receive the identical production for which the GO was issued, this system makes sure that no more green energy can be sold than produced.

A GO is only allowed to be used once and cannot be duplicated or copied. 

Issuing of GOs

Producers who want to apply for GOs, send their application to:

These organisations are called production registrars in the context of the GO application process. The production registrar will check the reliability and completeness of the application, and follow the procedures to obtain related measurement data on a monthly basis.

GOs are issued by the issuing body, VREG. VREG will grant GOs based on the data provided by the production registrars.

GOs are issued in an internet based trading platform for which every producer and trader obtains an account at VREG, the "VREG-platform". A manual that describes how to get access to this platform is available here (only in Dutch). 

Trading GOs for electricity over the VREG-platform requires a retribution for the use of the platform. The retribution amounts per type of transaction are listed on this page (only in Dutch). The transaction types are cancellation for own consumption, bilateral sale, export, import and cancellation for own consumption + ex-domain cancellation. The retribution is expressed in euro cents per GO. Transactions for high-efficiency cogeneration GOs are free of charge. 

In order to prevent fraud, VREG passes on the information of account holders to the Belgian tax authority (BBI).

GOs issued by VREG for energy from renewable resources that is injected into the electricity and gas grid in Flanders, comply with the EECS Rules of the AIB, and follow the EECS GO standard. Details of the EECS GO system in Flanders are to be found in the Domain Protocol for Flanders (for electricity).

An unofficial English translation of the Flemish legislation setting out the framework for the guarantee of origin system in Flanders is available here.

GOs for local energy use

For energy that is used directly at the site where is was generated, only GOs for local use can be granted. These GOs can be used by the producer to prove that (a part of) their energy use stems from renewable sources or qualitative CHP, but these GOs cannot be traded with other parties, let alone with other countries. As such, these GOs are cancelled immediately when they are granted.

Trading of electricity GOs

GOs can be traded through 2 mechanisms:

  • between account holders in the VREG-platform (trade within Flanders)
  • with account holders in other certificate databases in the EECS system, as the VREG-platform is connected with the AIB hub. Note that Flanders can only import GOs from or export GOs to countries that are both in the European Economic Area (EEA) and who are member of AIB (see list). Hence, Swiss GOs cannot be imported in Flanders (Switzerland is an AIB member, but not in the EEA).

Note that GOs for local energy use (see before) may not be traded.

No import of Swedish GOs

Currently, Swedish GOs cannot be imported in Flanders (as determined by this decision of the VREG of August 13 2019 - Dutch only).

In Sweden GOs are issued for onsite electricity use, meaning that the produced electricity is directly used onsite without being injected into the public grid. These GOs for onsite electricity use are also tradeable, since they are not marked as electricity that is not injected into the grid and not supplied to the consumer, and they are also not cancelled immediately after issuing. Furthermore, Sweden does not distinguish between GOs for electricity injected into the grid and GOs for electricity used onsite. This is not compliant with article 6.2/3.20 of the Flemish Energy Decision, which clearly states that tradeable GOs cannot be issued for onsite electricity use.

The issuing of tradeable GOs for energy directly used on the production site itself jeopardises the reliability as well as the veracity of the Swedish GO system (article 19(9) of Directive 2018/2001), since it creates the possibility to claim the same amount of energy from renewable energy sources elsewhere, which causes double counting of the same amount of energy. Therefore, VREG had no other options but to (temporarily) put a ban on Swedish GOs.

Cancelling of GOs

In Flanders, GOs act as proof that an amount of energy used is produced from renewable sources. By cancelling GOs, a supplier proves to his customers that the corresponding amount of energy has originated from renewable resources. This cancellation makes sure that a certain amount of green energy can be counted as such only once.

In order to connect the correct amount of GOs to the amount of promised green electricity, the Green Reporting procedure is followed (see below). The supplier obtains the necessary GOs either from their own production or by buying the corresponding amount from other suppliers or traders. Such a system is not yet in place for qualitative CHP, gas and heat/cold, but might be developed in the future.

Green Reporting Procedure for green electricity

In this procedure, the electricity supplier reports on a monthly basis to VREG on which consumers have a contract for green electricity. This report is a list of (EAN codes of) these consumers of green electricity and the percentage of green electricity each consumer is promised. The grid operators complement this list with the consumption of every consumer mentioned in the list. Based on the aggregated volume of green electricity due by each supplier, the VREG Green Reporting Tool calculates the amount of GOs that need to be cancelled by each respective supplier. If a supplier would not cancel enough GOs, this becomes visible in the Green Check.

Green Check

The Green check is a tool on the VREG website where an individual consumer in Flanders can check whether his supplier has cancelled the necessary amount of GOs to cover his individual consumption of electricity from renewable resources. The consumer therefore only needs to fill in his EAN Code. He can also check the origin of the energy, namely the country of production and the energy source. 

Fuel Mix and Origin Comparator

In order inform consumers on the origin of their electricity use, VREG publishes an annual Fuel Mix Report.

With this information, the online Origin Comparator allows consumers to compare the origin of electricity per supplier and per electricity product. In case of electricity from renewable energy sources, it provides detail on the country of origin and the type of renewable energy source.

Expiry of GOs

GOs must be used within 12 months after the production period, in order to avoid expiry. (The only exception on the expiry date is when for a reason outside the control of the producer, the guarantees of origin are issued more than 6 months after the end of the production period. In that case they are valid for 6 months after the issuing date.)

A GO thus always has a clearly defined end-of-life, either at cancellation, or at expiry.

An unofficial translation of sections of the energy legislation in the Flemish Region with relevance to Guarantees of Origin can be found here.