Net-Zero Approach

NREL is eliminating its carbon footprint to model how other organizations can successfully transition to net-zero emissions and carbon neutrality.

NREL and three other U.S. Department of Energy laboratories are developing and deploying clean energy technologies and approaches within their own facilities—amplifying their energy-efficiency efforts and creating solutions that organizations can replicate. Through this approach, NREL is moving the United States closer to its goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, having 100% clean electricity by 2035, and achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.

NREL's Net-Zero Goals

NREL will demonstrate its commitment to a net-zero future by:

  • Decarbonizing its Flatirons Campus by the end of 2024
  • Operating at 85% net-zero emissions on its Golden campus by 2026
  • Operating at 100% net-zero emissions for all campuses by end of 2030
  • Engaging with utilities, energy service companies, technology companies, and other private industry partners to integrate new technologies.

Learn about NREL's other sustainability initiatives, including its progress toward achieving net-zero emissions.

Leading by Example

NREL's campuses are research instruments that demonstrate living laboratories, and those facilities have some of the highest energy demands in the country. Although NREL already has several sustainable and net-zero buildings on its Colorado campuses, our team aspires to full net-zero emissions operations. If we can achieve net-zero emissions and carbon neutrality in these complex, energy-intensive facilities, we can do the same within others across the country.

Our net-zero approach provides a path forward for organizations with large emissions footprints as well as a springboard for innovation to achieve decarbonization. It will also launch partnerships critical to the net-zero transition and the communities it will serve.

See NREL's Net Zero Labs Pilot Roadmap, launched in April 2022.


Net-zero energy: On an annual basis, overall performance has greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of energy for vehicles, thermal, and electrical energy within the site boundary is met by renewable energy.

Net-zero emissions: On an annual basis, eliminate or offset all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (measured in MTCO2e) including both direct Scope 1 emissions and indirect Scope 2 and 3 emissions to achieve carbon neutrality.

24/7 carbon-free energy: Excluding carbon offsets, all energy consumed for operations are at all times of day from 100% emission-free sources.