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Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases

Last release: August 2011

Introduction

The Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program, required by Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, records the results of voluntary measures to reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions (see box below on “Evolution of the Voluntary Reporting Program”). For the 2009 reporting year, 30 U.S. companies and other organizations submitted 31 Start Year reports to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) under the revised General Guidelines and Technical Guidelines finalized in April 2006 and January 2007, respectively. For the 2009 reporting year, EIA accepted only Start Year reports, which include an entity’s initial, baseline emissions inventory against which subsequent progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration is measured.

The reported greenhouse gas emissions included 195.8 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (million MTCO2e) of direct emissions and 17.7 million MTCO2e of indirect emissions. To put these numbers in perspective, the 195.8 million MTCO2e of direct emissions reported is equivalent to about 3.0 percent of total estimated U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 (6,575.5 million MTCO2e)

Evolution of the Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program

The Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases [“1605(b)”] Program was established by Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-486, 42 U.S.C. 13385) in October 1992. The 1605(b) Program provides an opportunity for any interested party to record and highlight specific achievements related to its historic and current greenhouse gas emissions, emission reductions, and carbon sequestration. While reporting entities could report entity-wide emissions and emission reductions, the focus of the original 1605(b) Program was on actions or projects that reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or increase carbon sequestration. Following the release of guidelines in October 1994, EIA conducted 12 annual reporting cycles between 1995 and 2006, receiving reports from 425 distinct entities, including electric utilities, a variety of manufacturers, coal mine operators, landfill operators, furniture retailers, and even individual households.

On February 14, 2002, President Bush announced the Administration’s Global Climate Change Initiative, which—in addition to establishing a national goal of reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy by 18 percent between 2002 and 2012 and incentives for clean technology development—included a framework for improving the 1605(b) Program to enhance measurement accuracy, reliability, and verifiability. The guidelines for the Program were revised through an extensive interagency and multiyear public review process that included workshops, meetings, and other opportunities for stakeholders to provide oral and written comments. The General Guidelines and Technical Guidelines, published in April 2006 and January 2007, respectively, included the following key elements:

  • A shift in emphasis from project-level reporting to entity-wide assessments of emissions and emission reductions
  • A system for rating the quality of emissions inventories, based on the emissions estimation methods used
  • Introduction of the “registration” of emission reductions in data years 2003 and later for entities meeting stricter emissions inventory requirements
  • A requirement for large emitters registering emission reductions to conduct comprehensive entity-wide emission inventories
  • Less stringent registration requirements for small emitters (entities emitting less than 10,000 metric tons CO2 equivalent per year)
  • Prescribed methods for estimating entity-level emission reductions, based on changes in absolute emissions or emission intensity
  • Prescribed methods for estimating emission reductions associated with a limited number of specific actions, including utility demand-side management programs, electricity transmission and distribution system improvements, carbon capture and storage, methane capture and recovery, and terrestrial carbon storage.

The new version of Form EIA-1605, developed by EIA for reporting under the revised guidelines, was approved in July 2007 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. Reporting on the new form was delayed until November 2009, to allow for the development of an Internet-based electronic version of the revised form.

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