More than 130 countries have targets for increasing their share of renewable or nonfossil energy. These shares and targets are often reported without clear articulation of which energy accounting method was used to convert nonfossil electricity into units that allow comparison with other energy sources. Three commonly used conversion methods are well documented by organizations dealing in energy statistics, but often, the method is not clearly stated when countries translate national targets into international pledges or when organizations track and compare targets across nations. China—the world's largest energy producer, energy consumer, and emitter of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2)—uses a distinct fourth method that is unique, not well documented in the literature, and not transparent in policy documents. A single, standardized, and transparent methodology for any targets that are pledged as part of an international agreement is essential.
More than 120 national pledges in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) have been submitted in advance of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) beginning 30 November. Many of the pledges include targets for increasing the share of renewable or nonfossil electricity in the national energy mix. With this “bottom-up” system of pledges likely to be status quo for the near future, the absence of common methodological guidelines could lead to confusion and inaccuracies as requirements to track and report progress expand.