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Screen Your Energy-Efficiency Projects for Free!

Key Points
  • RETScreen 4 evaluates the feasibility of energy-efficiency technologies. 
  • Ongoing performance of projects and facilities is tracked with RETScreen Plus.
  • Causes of increases in gas consumption can be identified.

Evaluating the feasibility of energy-related efforts—whether it be renewable energy, energy-efficiency or cogeneration projects—can be time-consuming and expensive. Natural Resources Canada has developed RETScreen, a software suite, to help organizations worldwide in evaluating such projects and tracking their performance.

The RETScreen suite consists of two software programs:

  • RETScreen 4 is an Excel-based, clean energy analysis tool for evaluating the technical and financial feasibility of projects.
  • RETScreen Plus is a Windows-based, energy-management tool that uses regression analysis for tracking the ongoing performance of projects and facilities.

A 2013 update included:

  • Increased performance and speed
  • Updated greenhouse gas emission factors
  • Supplemental data was added to the benchmark database
  • More than 400 new products were added

Screen shot of RETScreen
Clean energy project analysis

The Clean Energy Project Analysis tool is used to evaluate the energy savings, emissions reductions, financial viability life-cycle costs and risks for various types of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies. After establishing initial settings and site conditions, the software determines project feasibility.

To do this, RETScreen incorporates several important databases on climate and products (more than 7,400 in all), along with a help manual and engineering tools. During the analysis, RETScreen offers three levels of data refinement. Custom data inputs include wind turbine power curves, regional emissions data and item-by-item cost analysis.

Energy-efficiency model

This model compares a proposed clean energy project to a base scenario involving conventional technology. The analysis is based on fuel prices, building operating schedules and total equipment costs. Energy usage and additional costs are estimated, along with emissions reductions and financial viability.

Energy-efficiency improvements in a 40-unit apartment building demonstrate how RETScreen works:

  • Installation of low-flow showerheads reduced water usage by 35 percent, saving $3,000
  • Reducing the water temperature from 140°F to 130°F (60°C to 55°C)
  • Implementing heat recovery resulted in a 15 percent efficiency gain
  • Installing a new water heater resulted in a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency

By adding heat recovery and reducing the water temperature and flow, RETScreen calculates a 53 percent reduction in energy consumption and a simple payback of less than one year. 

Reducing risks and finding problems

RETScreen has a number of additional benefits. For instance, The Federation of Canadian Municipalities used RETScreen to help its members achieve their clean energy goals by iteratively designing and redesigning systems until they made financial sense and met stated objectives.

RETScreen also helps to bridge the communication gap between engineering professionals and elected officials by presenting technical information in an understandable way that reduces the risk and anxiety often associated with proceeding on a given project.

By quantifying the seasonal loss of oven efficiency, RETScreen Plus helped Weston Foods of Sudbury, Ontario identify the source of an anomalous increase in winter gas consumption from a bread oven. RETScreen Plus determined the cause to be an out-of-calibration temperature sensor. It also identified a number of other energy-saving opportunities: 

  • Preheating intake air would reduce differentials in seasonal energy consumption
  • Identified burners that needed to be replaced
  • Turning off surplus ovens in summer

These opportunities generated savings of nearly 75,000 cubic metres of natural gas per year. The software also allowed for the separation and quantification of production and non-production natural gas consumption, improving costs, budgeting and operation management.

Find out more

Training materials and instructions for this do-it-yourself program are available at the RETScreen website.

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