The Complexity Behind Brookfield’s New Zero Emissions Electricity Pledge

By Barbra Murray

Brookfield Properties has unveiled plans to power its entire U.S. office portfolio with zero emissions electricity by 2026, with more than 65% of its office space transitioning by 2024. This commitment positions Brookfield Properties as the largest commercial real estate purchaser of zero emissions electricity in the nation. By entering into contracts for approximately 600,000 MWh of electricity annually from zero emissions sources, they aim to avoid accountability for over 260,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions each year, thereby allowing them to claim a reduction in their carbon footprint. They assert that this transition will lead to an approximately 80% decrease in carbon emissions for Brookfield’s U.S. office portfolio, thereby contributing to their broader aim of achieving net-zero carbon.

To reach this goal, Brookfield says it will procure electricity from renewable sources like hydropower, solar, wind, and nuclear, using bundled Purchase Power Agreements (PPAs) and virtual power purchase agreements. While their commitment may suggest progress in the real estate industry’s decarbonization efforts, the reality is more complex. The use of renewable energy credits and indirect procurement methods does not guarantee actual renewable energy usage. Electricity’s complexity lies in its inability to be tracked once it enters the grid, allowing companies to claim pollution-free energy while continuing to rely on fossil fuels. Despite this, Brookfield’s energy transition effort showcases a growing awareness and willingness within the commercial real estate industry to embrace sustainable practices and reduce carbon footprints.

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