CREST: Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool

The Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST) contains economic, cash-flow models designed to assess project economics, design cost-based incentives, and evaluate the impact of state and federal support structures on renewable energy.

The model is a product of a 2009–2010 partnership among NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions. The model was developed by Sustainable Energy Advantage under the direction of NREL.

Intended Uses

CREST is designed for state policymakers, regulators, utilities, developers, and investors. The models allow users to:

  • Estimate the year one cost of energy and levelized cost of energy from projects
  • Experiment with the process of setting cost-based incentive rates
  • Observe the effects of different economic drivers on a given renewable energy project's cost of energy and levelized cost of energy
  • Comprehend the relative economics of generation projects with differing characteristics, such as project size, resource quality, location, and ownership.

Download CREST

The CREST models are available in Microsoft Excel format:




Anaerobic Digestion

Fuel Cell

Supporting Documents and Information

CREST Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool: A Model for Developing Cost-Based Incentives in the United States — User Manual Version 4, NREL Subcontract Report (2013)
This document offers a tutorial on how to use the CREST models, including example model runs, sample inputs, and troubleshooting. The five technology versions of CREST share a common architecture, the features of which are described in the main body of this user manual. Features specific to the individual technologies are explained in the appendices.

Renewable Energy Cost Modeling: A Toolkit for Establishing Cost-Based Incentives in the United States, NREL Subcontract Report (2011)
This report serves as a resource for policymakers who wish to learn more about establishing cost-based incentives. The report identifies key renewable energy cost modeling options, highlights the policy implications of choosing one approach over the other, and presents recommendations on the optimal characteristics of a model to calculate rates for cost-based incentives, feed-in tariffs, or similar policies.


Contact us if you have questions or concerns about these models.