Sustainability Annual Performance
In Fiscal Year 2022, NREL demonstrated its commitment to addressing the pace of climate change, reducing water consumption, efficiently using resources, and building resilience.
NREL's energy and resilience programs support sustainability efforts through a focus on energy efficiency, sustainable buildings, and ongoing commissioning and innovation.
Two major factors contributed to a 12% decrease in calculated energy use intensity on NREL's Golden, Colorado, campus (this excludes the lab's high-performance computer):
- Most NREL staff started Fiscal Year 2022 working off-site. By fiscal year-end, nearly two-thirds of staff worked off-site at least part time.
- In summer 2022, NREL replaced multiple chillers on its Golden, Colorado, campus.
Forty-six percent of the total grid electricity that NREL purchased for its Flatirons Campus in Arvada, Colorado, was clean energy through Xcel Energy's Windsource green tariff program.
South Table Mountain Campus
Fiscal Year 2022 Energy Use
Flatirons Campus Fiscal Year
2022 Energy Use
Data Center Energy Use
Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is the standard ratio used to calculate how efficiently data centers use energy. In Fiscal Year 2022, NREL had PUE scores near the ideal 1.0, with its High-Performance Computing Data Center scoring 1.03 and its 12-year-old Research Support Facility Data Center achieving an average monthly PUE of 1.35. Although the latter center saw a 3-kW load increase in total energy in Fiscal Year 2022 due to NREL's growth, the lab is primed to reduce the center's PUE going forward as the cooling system is running at a minimum.
The High-Performance Computer Data Center also achieved a water usage effectiveness score of 0.92 liters/kWh. See Sustainable and Net-Zero Buildings on NREL Campuses for more details about how our buildings achieve high levels of energy and water efficiency.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance
NREL reduced greenhouse gas emissions from energy (including natural gas and grid electricity) by 13%. This takes into account NREL's green tariff electricity purchase.
NREL decarbonization efforts in Fiscal Year 2022 focused on:
- Development of a decarbonization dashboard
- Research support to determine optimal energy source technology for decarbonization
- Working with federal and local partners to expand support and resources for meeting net-zero emissions goals.
Digital Campus Replicas as Planning Tools
NREL is developing digital twins of its Colorado campuses to conduct campus planning and communicate complex tactical planning through custom dashboards. The platform incorporates the outcomes of NREL pilot projects, which included harvesting operational campus and building data as well as evaluating decarbonization projects for its Golden, Colorado, campus. That work combined quantitative and qualitative data to identify effective paths to decarbonization, including selecting appropriate projects and technologies.
Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience Plan
NREL completed its climate change-focused Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience Plan in Fiscal Year 2022. Using a stakeholder-driven process, the plan's creation brought together more than 70 NREL operational and research staff to identify 19 climate change-related vulnerabilities, three of which were rated as high or medium-high risk. Climate concerns focused mostly on high-likelihood changes, including the increased chance of drought, wildfire, heat waves, average temperatures, and degradation in air quality in the region.
NREL's waste reduction and pollution prevention programs support sustainability efforts through a reduce/reuse/recycle/re-buy philosophy, composting, the chemical management system and excess chemical inventory, and pollution prevention initiatives.
Municipal Waste Diversion
In Fiscal Year 2022, NREL's waste management performance resulted in an overall diversion rate of 83% from landfills. Recycled materials included batteries, computer monitors, electronic waste, lightbulbs, paper, and Styrofoam.
Construction and Demolition
During construction of NREL's Research and Innovation Laboratory, NREL increased its wood recycling and reduced the amount of construction and demolition materials and debris sent to treatment and disposal facilities.
NREL received the 2021 five-category EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) Purchaser Award for its exceptional commitment to sustainable procurement.
Staff also made improvements to the lab's stockroom processing, including simplifying the purchaser experience, consolidating frequently purchased items to one supplier, and giving users more control over the purchasing process. This reduced the need for deliveries and improved supply chain resilience.
NREL analysis shows all the lab's fleet vehicles could be converted to battery electric vehicles, once commercially available, and that most vehicles would only require overnight charging. As of October 2022, NREL had five zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in its fleet and nine more ZEVs on order, three of which were acquired in Fiscal Year 2022.
Although NREL will replace each fleet vehicle with a ZEV when feasible, the lab has opted to purchase E85 vehicles to replace medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles that are unavailable as ZEVs or don't meet vehicle group mission requirements.
NREL's continued water efficiency efforts include monitoring and optimizing campus water use.
NREL's water use increased 32% in Fiscal Year 2022, with most of it used in the lab's cooling towers, steam boilers, clean rooms, and high-performance computer. Sources of unattributed water use include unmetered water use within a clean room in the Science and Technology Facility on the South Table Mountain campus and a fire water system leak—to be addressed in Fiscal Year 2023—on the Flatirons Campus.
Completed in Fiscal Year 2022, NREL's Water Management Plan explores building-level water use and metering using a detailed water balance analysis. NREL identified discrepancies in metering, buildings with high water use, and areas for further investigation for future water savings measures to be implemented.