Tips for Greenhouse Gas Project Developers, Part 2: Creating an Effective Project Design Document

In “Tips for Greenhouse Gas Project Developers, Part 1” (2010-01-17), we discussed the important project attributes of emission baselines and additionality, and described how a “performance-based” project protocol differs from the model employed in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

This blog addresses another important greenhouse gas (GHG) project element, the “Project Design Document” (PDD). The PDD name comes from CDM but has its equivalent in voluntary GHG programs as well, even if called by a slightly different name. The International Standard ISO 14064:2006 Part 2 refers to it simply as project “documentation.”

There are multiple audiences for a PDD. The first audience is internal. A PDD describes the project in detail, including relevant GHG sources, sinks and reservoirs; emission reduction or removal enhancement quantification methodologies, and the number of tons of CO2-e that the project is expected to create. The PDD also defines requirements for quality control/quality assurance and for monitoring and measurement. It may discuss applicable crediting periods, plans for validation and/or verification, and plans for registering project offset credits.

A second audience for the PDD is an organization that may provide project financing prior to the creation of the offset reductions, or a prospective purchaser of offset credits. Both a carbon financing source and a buyer use PDDs as initial screens for identifying potentially attractive projects and making preliminary assessments of risk.

The third audience for a PDD is the project’s validation or verification body (VVB). VVBs use PDDs to assess audit risk and to develop verification plans and data sampling plans.

Because the PDD is often the means by which outside parties are first introduced to a project, the document should be carefully prepared. It should make a convincing case that the project is eligible, additional, and monitored, and that emission reductions or removal enhancements are (or will be) properly quantified and reported.

A central element of the PDD is the monitoring plan. This section of the PDD describes the need for and purpose of monitoring, and the types of information to be tracked. It discusses where monitored information comes from, and what monitoring methodologies are employed. The latter can include estimation, modeling, measurement or calculation. The monitoring plan defines intervals for monitoring, and discusses roles and responsibilities. It describes any GHG information management systems to be employed, such as automated equipment and data loggers, and specifies the location and retention time for stored data. The monitoring plan also describes plans for calibration and maintenance of monitoring equipment, and includes or refers to procedures needed to carry out the monitoring function.

Monitoring plans should provide for tracking regulatory compliance and other eligibility criteria as well as applicable flows of gases, fluxes in carbon stocks, project emissions, project leakage and changes to the baseline scenario.

A well designed PDD is essential for proper project implementation. It can open the door to project financing and sale of credits, and ease validation and verification. Project developers can undertake this important task on their own or engage the help of qualified consultants, such as Futurepast.