Sustainability

NREL is committed to reducing campus carbon emissions to create a net-zero NREL.

Through world-class operations, the use of the campus as a research instrument, and a holistic approach to sustainability and resilience, NREL demonstrates leadership in critical climate and clean energy solutions for market adoption. Solutions are approached from an ecosystem perspective that utilizes the synergistic relationship between operational choices and mission objectives.

Sustainability and resilience strategies focus first on efficient use of resources and then on the replacement of resources with increasingly more sustainable options and technological solutions that reduce emissions and impact.

NREL Net Zero Labs Pilot

Document cover image with text Net Zero Labs Pilot: NREL Roadmap to Decarbonization and aerial photo of large buildings in background.

NREL's Net Zero Labs Pilot is a multi-phase plan to decarbonize our footprint over the next decade by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from NREL facilities through energy-efficiency enhancements and the increased integration of clean energy sources.

Site Sustainability Plan

A wind turbine stands over a field of solar arrays during a sunset.

The Fiscal Year 2022 Site Sustainability Plan provides a road map for site planning and development and demonstrates the incorporation of clean energy practices into all business operations.

Net Zero Emissions

This infographic shows NREL's Fiscal Year 2020 greenhouse gas emission performance. We demonstrate leadership in greenhouse gas management by maximizing the use of energy efficiency practices and on-site renewable power. NREL continuously pursues new technologies and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations.

This infographic shows NRELs FY 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission performance status. NREL reports on Scope 1, 2 and 3 GHG emissions. Scope 1, direct emissions, accounts for 10% of the GHG emissions, including 2,383 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of natural gas in heating facilities and experiments; 386 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in fluorinated gases and refrigerants; 194 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in fleet and equipment; 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in onsite wastewater; and 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in dry ice use in laboratories. Scope 2, purchased energy, accounts for 70% and is associated with purchased electricity, comparable to 20,578 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to enough barrels of oil to stack Pikes Peak 9.5 times. Scope 2 also includes 37 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the biomass renewable fuel heat plant. Scope 3, indirect emissions, accounts for 20% and is associated with employee commuting, business air travel, transmission and distribution losses from the power grid, solid waste disposal, and contracted wastewater for the campuses. NREL had 29,403 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which would take a forest 5 times the size of Golden, Colorado, one year to sequester that amount of carbon dioxide.

Terminology

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.