A conversation with Jacob Mansfield & Emma Konet of Tierra Climate.
Volts’ David Roberts sits down with Tierra Climate’s co-founders to discuss how the company is focusing on incentivizing emissions-reducing behavior in batteries by making it an eligible carbon offset.
Episode Summary from David Roberts
It is widely understood that decarbonizing the grid will require a large amount of energy storage. What is much less widely understood is that batteries on the grid today are generally not reducing carbon emissions — indeed, their day-to-day operation often has the effect of increasing them.
Yes, you heard me right: most batteries on today’s grid are responsible for net positive carbon emissions.
I was quite disturbed when I first found out about this, mostly through the research of Eric Hittinger at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and I wrote a piece on it on Vox way back in 2018.
Contemporary research suggests that nothing has changed in the ensuing five years — most batteries still behave in a way that increases emissions. But a new startup called Tierra Climate is trying to change that. It wants to incentivize emission-reducing behavior in batteries by making it an eligible carbon offset.
Just as a renewable energy producers can make extra money through the sale of renewable energy credits (RECs), battery operators could make extra money through the sale of carbon offsets on the voluntary market — but only if they change the way they operate.
It’s an intriguing idea and the only real solution I’ve seen proposed to a problem that no one else is even talking about. So I wanted to chat with founders Jacob Mansfield and Emma Konet about why batteries increase emissions today, what incentive they would need to change their behavior, and what’s required to set up an offset product. And yes, I recall that Volts recently featured an episode extremely critical of carbon offsets — we’ll get into that too.