Frequently Asked Questions 

What is peer verification?

Peer verification is an innovative process being piloted by the DCOI and the Offset Network which, in contrast to expensive third-party verification, provides educational opportunities for students and is expected to remove the high cost barrier of verification. Peer verification may be an especially useful route to carbon offset generation for institutions developing small projects, for which third party verification is too expensive and therefore infeasible.

Who can act as a peer verifier?

A peer verifier is knowledgeable about the Offset Network’s Peer Verification process and the basics of carbon accounting. Peer verifiers must take an online test through the Offset Network to become certified (learn more here). Additionally, a peer verifier may act as the adviser of students performing peer validation or peer verification – in which case they take responsibility for the final report and its robustness.

Can I sell carbon credits generated through peer verification?

No, carbon offsets generated through peer verification may not be sold. These credits can only be retired by the institution that developed and implemented the project.

Are carbon credits generated through Offset Network real?

Carbon credits generated through the Offset Network’s Peer Verification process are real. To ensure that the carbon emissions reductions or sequestrations actually occurred, the carbon offsets are verified by unbiased peer verifiers certified by the Offset Network. All verification materials are posted on the Offset Network website and available to the public in order to increase transparency.

How can carbon offsets generated be used?

Carbon offsets generated through peer verification can be retired to offset Scope 3 emissions in a university or college’s emissions portfolio. Some external institutions will accept these carbon offsets; if you are unsure if an institution will recognize and accept offsets generated this way, please contact the institution to verify.

Is the Offset Network a GHG program?

A greenhouse gas (GHG) program has three core components to ensure the validity and legitimacy of carbon offsets generated. These components include: 1) accounting rules to ensure that offsets are “real” and to specify which project types can be developed or methodologies can be used, 2) monitoring, reporting, verification, and certification rules which ensure that projects perform as designed, and 3) registration and enforcement systems that track the ownership and retirement of offsets.

The Offset Network is becoming a greenhouse gas (GHG) program. The Offset Network plays a vital role in helping institutions of higher education reach their carbon neutrality goals by enabling carbon offset projects to occur, fostering protocol development, facilitating verification, and tracking credits generated. The Offset Network lowers barriers that would prevent some institutions from developing carbon offset projects. Additionally, the Offset Network fosters innovation through the innovative and public assessment project tracks; these can lead to the development of new protocols. Also, peer verification training facilitates a robust, affordable path towards the verification of carbon offset projects.

Why do you need peer verification if we can buy verified carbon offsets?

Peer Verification allows institutions to create meaningful change in their local communities, engage students, and reduce costs of verification for institutions that want to develop their own carbon offset projects. Peer Verification cannot be used for all of an institution’s carbon offset needs, only for 30% of Scope 3 emission; Peer Verification can be used in conjunction with the purchase of verified carbon offsets.

What’s the difference between a REC and a carbon offset?

A carbon offset represents a metric ton of carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions reductions or sequestration. Carbon offsets (in general, not specifically peer verified offsets) may used to offset Scope 1, 2, or 3 emissions. Conversely, a REC (Renewable Energy Credit) is a credit attributing that a MWh of power delivered to the grid was produced by renewable energy sources. Possessing a REC allows individuals or institutions to claim that they use electricity from renewable sources; purchase of RECs can reduce an organization’s Scope 2 emissions. Some RECs are tested for additionality, but these tests are minimal and RECs that are not tested for additionality can reduce the viability of truly additional projects. There can be some overlap between RECs and carbon offsets; for instance, purchasing and retiring RECs may be a method for genuine emissions reductions as long as REC attributes are clearly defined, the REC is purchased from an Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) compliance market, and clear ownership of the REC is established. Many states have RPS standards that require that electric utilities have a certain percentage of their electricity portfolio come from renewable sources of energy; to achieve this standard, utilities can either build renewable energy facilities or purchase RECs. In contrast, in the United States, the carbon market is currently mostly voluntary, except in California, so that there are no caps on carbon emissions or standards requiring any kind of offsetting of emissions.