E-mobility: “We will be overrun”: These start-ups will soon be offering CO2 reduction bonuses to e-car owners

Düsseldorf E-car owners will be able to earn money on the side from next year: From 2022 they can secure an annual bonus – currently of around 250 euros per vehicle. The reason: With their cars they save CO2 compared to drivers with a combustion engine. For this, they – like charging station operators – can in future have the emissions they have saved credited to themselves – and turn them into cash.

In practice, however, this only works because various start-ups have turned the new regulation into a business model: They collect the data and documents required for payments from many people and forward them to the Federal Environment Agency. There they have the electricity volumes and their emission reductions certified – and deal with them on a large scale.

But why are the new service providers needed and how does the windfall come about? Behind this is a new system that not only rewards those who do good for the climate, but also burdens the other side: the greenhouse gas reduction quota – in short: GHG quota.

With this quota, politicians want to significantly reduce emissions from traffic and promote climate-friendly types of drive. Companies that produce electricity from renewable energies can already benefit from GHG quota trading and generate income. In the coming year, the group of eligible participants will also be expanded to include owners of e-cars and charging station operators.

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The idea behind the concept: Anyone who puts CO2-emitting fuels on the market has to pay for them. Because the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II) of the European Union obliges the member states to reduce emissions in traffic more. In Germany this is done via the GHG quota.

Corporations that have a negative CO2 balance, i.e. predominantly mineral oil corporations, are therefore obliged to support companies that are already working with renewable energies for transport. People who invest in locally emission-free mobility, on the other hand, should be financially rewarded.

Companies that do not meet the quota by using biofuels, green hydrogen or electricity for electric vehicles must pay accordingly for their negative carbon footprint. If they neither meet the required percentage of CO2 savings nor make the compensation payment, they face a fine.

In May 2021, the Bundestag passed a law that gradually increases the GHG quota for fuels from the current six percent to 25 percent in 2030. The quota regulates the extent to which the mineral oil companies also add emission-free fuels to their fossil fuel supply.

However, since quota-obliged companies are often unable to reduce their emissions on their own, they are able to trade GHG quotas with companies that sell low-emission fuels, such as electricity for electromobility.

Quota prices have risen sharply

The problem: For large oil companies, the effort would be higher if they had to buy together the required quotas from individual people or companies. They need a collective offer – so much so that they even pay a surcharge for it. This is exactly what start-ups have recognized and turned it into a business model. They bundle the GHG quotas of individual customers and sell them to the corporations. In this way, customers continue to get more money than would be the case with trading with individual quotas.

At the same time, the high workload is eliminated. “Both for the applicants, who have the effort of filing the application with the Federal Environment Agency and for further marketing, as well as for us as the responsible body, it can be advantageous if applications are bundled. Bundling larger quantities should relieve everyone involved, ”explains the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

The service-providing start-ups forward the bundled data and documents of the customers to the Federal Environment Agency and have the electricity quantities and their emission reductions certified there. In the background they trade the GHG quotas. Once the quota trade has been concluded, the trade contracts are sent to the main customs office and the customer receives the quota proceeds for his e-vehicles.

The access conditions are simple: In order to register for quota trading, private customers only need their contact details and the vehicle registration document. Charging station operators must also transmit the value of the converted kilowatt hours. According to the start-ups GreenTrax and Emovy, interest in quota trading is currently increasing sharply – both from companies and private customers.

“As a result of the legal amendments from 2022, awareness and interest in this topic has increased significantly,” explained Matthias Kerner, Managing Director of Emovy, to the Handelsblatt. “We assume that the market prices for GHG quotas will fall again in the coming months, but will remain at a very high level.” next years.

As a result of various regulatory measures and market developments in recent weeks, the GHG quota prices have risen sharply, which has significantly increased the revenue potential per vehicle. “This has made it much more attractive for private customers as well as corporate customers to participate in GHG quota trading through a suitable service provider,” says Kerner.

The start-up companies Fairnergy and GreenTrax also offer customers the opportunity to continue investing their proceeds on a sustainable basis – for example in charging stations, infrastructure for renewables such as solar systems or as donations to the global south. “We donate to the construction of solar homes in Bangladesh, currently 21 euros per registration go there”, reports Philip Weykamp, ​​founder and COO of the corporate brands GreenTrax and Fairnergy.

He is currently receiving a lot of inquiries. The Fairnergy brand in particular, which is dedicated to quota trading for private customers, is experiencing a strong rush. “We are being overrun,” reports David Pflegler, who is responsible for sales and business development for the company. According to Weykamp, ​​the new access authorizations are particularly interesting for charging station operators. “Here you have subsidies of 15 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, which you cannot ignore as an operator.”

Critics suspect greenwashing

By giving companies the opportunity to counteract their climate-damaging emissions with payments, critics smell greenwashing. However, the increasing financial burden on corporations speaks against it, according to the entrepreneurs.

“There is definitely also the possibility of misusing the concept,” says Philipp Weykamp. So far, however, the mechanism has been working well. “We see a very high quota price.” This suggests that companies cannot secure the quotas cheaply – a financial burden on climate-damaging corporations is thus recognizable.

As a customer, however, you also have to look at which company you turn to for quota trading, since not every start-up pays the same amount, advises Weykamp.

“In our estimation, an attempt was made to create the fairest possible competitive framework between the various fulfillment options in compliance with EU requirements,” explained the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Emovy managing director Kerner is also optimistic: “The market prices are currently well above the currently applicable penalties for non-compliance.” This shows that the system is well received.

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