RETScreen Clean Energy Management Software
RETScreen Expert is a comprehensive clean energy management software platform which enables professionals and decision-makers to identify and assess the viability of potential energy efficiency, renewable energy and cogeneration projects; to measure and verify the actual and ongoing energy performance of buildings, factories and power plants around the world; and to manage portfolios of facilities. The software is developed by the Government of Canada in collaboration with notable international partners and is used by over 750,000 people in every country and territory of the world. RETScreen is also used as a teaching and research tool by well-over 1,400 universities and colleges worldwide, and is frequently cited in academic literature. RETScreen Expert Version 8.1 was released in September 2021.
RETScreen Expert allows energy professionals and decision-makers to identify, assess and optimize the technical and financial viability of potential clean energy projects. Its decision intelligence software platform also allows managers to measure and verify the actual performance of facilities, helps identify additional energy savings/production opportunities, and allows for the management of multi-facility portfolios. The software is available in 37 languages and can significantly reduce the financial and time costs associated with identifying and assessing potential renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
RETScreen Expert models a full range of both traditional and non-traditional sources of clean energy as well as conventional energy sources and technologies, including energy efficiency (from large industrial facilities to individual houses), heating and cooling (e.g., biomass, heat pumps, and solar air/water heating), power (including renewables like solar, wind, wave, hydro, geothermal, etc. but also conventional technologies such as gas/steam turbines and reciprocating engines), and combined heat and power (or cogeneration). Integrated into the analytical worksheets are product, project, benchmark, hydrology and climate databases, as well as links to worldwide energy resource maps.
RETScreen Expert is managed under the leadership and ongoing financial support of the CanmetENERGY Varennes Research Centre of Natural Resources Canada, a department of the Government of Canada. The core team leverages collaboration with a number of other government and multilateral organisations, with technical support from a large network of experts from industry, government and academia. Principal partners include NASA's Langley Research Center, Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), UNEP's Energy Unit of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank's Prototype Carbon Fund, and York University's Sustainable Energy Initiative.
Licensing and Subscription
RETScreen Expert is available for download completely free-of-charge in Viewer mode. Viewer mode provides significant functionality for the energy analysis needs of most users. The full functionality of RETScreen Expert (including the ability to save, print and export files as well as access to premium features) is available in Professional mode by purchasing a renewable 12-month subscription, currently priced at CAD 869 per subscribing computer (plus applicable taxes) and charged on a cost recovery basis.
RETScreen Expert Decision Engine
Virtual Energy Analyzer feature allows for the rapid and accurate estimation of the energy production and savings potential for any location in the world employing a five-star benchmark ranking system and without requiring a site visit. A Smart Project Identifier accurately identifies the best projects to be implemented at the facility and intelligently completes a pre-feasibility analysis or energy audit for further refinements onsite. A Financial Risk Assessor automatically assesses the financial risk of the proposed investment and systematically determines the sensitivity of key parameters on a project's viability. A Performance Tracker comprehensively measures and verifies the actual performance of implemented projects and helps find opportunities for further energy improvements at the facility.
Project Life-Cycle Analysis
RETScreen Expert has analysis capabilities covering an entire project life cycle.
Benchmark Analysis allows the user to establish reference climate conditions at a facility site for any location on earth and compare the energy performance of various types of reference (benchmark) facilities with the estimated (modeled) or measured (actual) annual energy consumption of a facility. Energy benchmarking allows designers, facility operators, managers and senior decision-makers to quickly gauge a facility's energy performance, i.e., expected energy consumption or production versus reference facilities, as well as scope for improvements.
Feasibility Analysis permits decision-makers to conduct a five step standard analysis, including energy analysis, cost analysis, emission analysis, financial analysis, and sensitivity/risk analysis. Fully integrated into this five-step analysis are benchmark, product, project, hydrology and climate databases, as well as links to worldwide energy resource maps. Also built in is an extensive database of generic clean energy project templates as well as specific case studies.
Performance Analysis allows a user to monitor, analyze, and report key energy performance data to facility operators, managers and senior decision-makers, including a facility's actual energy performance versus predicted performance. The Performance Analysis module integrates near real-time satellite-derived weather data from NASA for the entire surface of the planet and is connected to the Green Button.
Portfolio Analysis allows a user to manage energy across a large number of facilities, spanning multiple energy efficiency measures in a single residential property to a portfolio comprising thousands of buildings, factories and power plants in multiple locations. Within the software, a user can create a new portfolio or open an existing file. The "My portfolio" database file is made up of individual facilities analyzed with RETScreen. Additional facilities can easily be added to the portfolio database. Sub-portfolios can be created to allow for comparison across different facility types and geographic regions, and a mapping tool helps the user visualize assets across the globe.
With a populated database, the user can enable a portfolio-wide analysis dashboard. The dashboard can be configured to include the results of benchmark, feasibility and performance analysis for each individual facility in the portfolio. The dashboard allows the user to consolidate results to readily track energy consumption and/or production, as well as costs and greenhouse gas emissions, all of which can be sorted by facility type, fuel type, country, etc. These results can then be used to report key metrics to various stakeholders.
Virtual Energy Analyzer
The user can start a new project using the Virtual energy analyzer by clicking on the map icon on the Open tab on the File worksheet or in the ribbon of the Location worksheet. By selecting the facility information and location, the software can rapidly determine the energy production and savings potential for any location in the world employing a five-star benchmark ranking system, and without requiring an actual site visit.
The Virtual Energy Analyzer's comprehensive database of Facility Archetypes allows a user to quickly and inexpensively start a pre-feasibility study or energy audit for a facility. Archetypes are available for a full complement of facility types, including power generation, industrial, commercial/institutional, residential and agricultural. Individual measures can also be selected.
The Virtual Energy Analyzer's five-star benchmark rating system provides a snapshot of the amount of detail in any given archetype. Mousing over the five stars in the top left portion of the window indicates the spectrum of available information. A five-star archetype provides a significant amount of information (including estimated incremental costing of the proposed project) and can be used as an initial draft of a pre-feasibility study or energy audit. An archetype that is rated less than five-stars will still contain a large amount of valuable information, but will benefit from additional user inputs to help refine the analyses built into the archetype.
For example, loading the five-star "Large Office" archetype (Facility type: Commercial/Institutional; Type: Office Building; Description: Office - Large) will rapidly model the energy profile, costs, emissions, financial returns, and risk of an archetypical large office building in the chosen location, automatically adjusting calculations for geographic location. This archetype may in and of itself be sufficient to provide a basic idea of the value of retrofitting a large office building (compared to, say, expending capital on another potential project). But the user can also modify the archetype, depending on the needs of the proposed project and the information that is available at the preliminary stage. For example, the target facility may be considerably larger than the default size modeled in the archetype. Or the user may prefer to work in square feet and Btu, change the fuel input costs, add financial incentives, or set ambitious targets for energy efficiency. The user can simply adjust the relevant values in the archetype and all other values automatically recalculate.
Existing archetypes are updated as necessary (particularly the integrated cost data) and new archetypes are continuously under development.
Inputs and Outputs
The RETScreen Expert workflow consists of a series of worksheets (tabs located at top of software window) and accompanying databases. Generally, the user works from left to right, completing the Location worksheet first, followed by the Facility worksheet, etc. On each worksheet, it is recommended that the user follows the steps outlined in the ribbon near the top of the software window, completing each worksheet from top to bottom.
The Energy Model worksheet is used to simulate the energy consumption and/or production of various types of facilities, including individual measures and systems. A fully integrated user manual facilities data entry by the user.
Buildings and Factories
RETScreen Expert can be used to evaluate various types of energy efficiency measures projects in buildings and factories. It can investigate the viability of energy efficiency improvements in a wide range of residential, commercial, institutional buildings, and industrial facilities, from single-family homes and apartment complexes, to office buildings, to hospitals, to large pulp and paper mills. The software can be used to assess projects incorporating a variety of energy efficiency measures associated with building envelope, ventilation, lights, electrical equipment, hot water, pumps, fans, motors, process electricity, process heat, process steam, steam losses, heat recovery, compressed air, refrigeration, and more. It is useful for both new construction and retrofits. Whole facilities can be modeled, or sub-systems and rooms can be studied individually.
Step 1 - Fuels & schedules
In this section, the user enters information about fuels and schedules considered for the base case and the proposed case facilities.
Step 2 - Equipment
In this section, the user enters the information about the heating system and cooling system equipment, for the base case and the proposed case. The user clicks in the ribbon on the equipment they want to describe (e.g. boiler, heat pump, compressor, etc.) to access the data entry forms.
In the Heating System and Cooling System forms, the user enters information about the base case and the proposed case facility, including any proposed case end-use energy efficiency measures. The user also enters the "incremental initial costs" and "incremental O&M savings" associated with the proposed case end-use energy efficiency measures. For example, material and labour costs, including engineering and design costs that would have been spent on the base case facility, can often be credited when considering the incremental costs for the proposed case facility. The results are displayed in the "Include measure?" summary and are used along with the information specified in the other energy efficiency forms to calculate the annual fuel cost savings, simple payback, etc.
Note that the user should fill in these forms even if no energy efficiency measures are included in the proposed case heating and/or cooling system(s). The seasonal efficiency of the heating equipment and the seasonal coefficient of performance of the cooling equipment are entered in these forms, and the loads are calculated in the individual forms below (e.g. Building envelope).
Step 3 - End-use
In this section, the user enters the information about the facility characteristics, for the base case and the proposed case facilities. The user clicks in the ribbon on the end-use they want to describe (e.g. Building envelope, Ventilation, Lights, etc.) to access the data entry forms.
For complex projects, the user might want to use more than one form to describe each major building zone or each separate energy efficiency measure, etc. The user also enters key information about each form in the Description data entry cell at the top of each form. For example, this might be the name of the building zone (e.g. gymnasium, office, etc.) or it might describe the energy efficiency measures under consideration (e.g. low-flow faucets, drainwater heat recovery, etc.).
Within some of the forms the user can select more than one Method or Level to perform the calculations. When more than one method or level is available, the user selects the type of method or level by clicking on the appropriate button at the top of each form. The method or level chosen will typically depend on the availability of input data and the stage of project development (e.g. pre-feasibility vs. feasibility study).
Step 4 - Optimize supply
In this section, the user enters the information about the heating system and power system equipment used to optimize the energy supply, for the proposed case. The user clicks in the ribbon on the equipment they want to describe (e.g. solar water heater, wind turbine, etc.) to access the data entry forms.
Step 5 - Summary
This section summarizes key results (e.g. fuel saved, simple payback, etc.) based on the information entered in the previous steps (i.e., Fuels & schedules, Equipment, End-use and Optimize supply), for the base case and proposed case facilities, including detailed information for each fuel type used, as well as fuel consumption and annual energy use information for heating, cooling and electricity.
RETScreen Expert can be used to evaluate various types of power projects. It permits analysis with a wide range of renewable and conventional (fossil) fuels (which can be used in parallel), including wind; hydro; solar; landfill gas; biomass; bagasse; biodiesel; biogas; hydrogen; natural gas; oil/diesel; coal; municipal waste, etc.
Step 1 - Fuels & schedules
In this section, the user enters information about fuels and schedules considered for the base case and the proposed case facilities.
Step 2 - Technology
In this section, the user enters the information about the power system equipment for the proposed case. The user clicks in the ribbon on the equipment they want to describe (e.g. reciprocating engine, gas turbine - combined cycle, wind turbine, etc.) to access the data entry forms.
In these forms, the user enters information about the power system equipment. The user also enters the "initial costs" and "O&M costs (savings)" associated with the system. The results are displayed in the "Include system?" summary and are used along with the information specified in the other forms to calculate the annual electricity export revenue, simple payback, etc.
Within some of the forms the user can select more than one Level to perform the calculations. When more than one level is available, the user selects the type of level by clicking on the appropriate button at the top of each form. The application or level chosen will typically depend on the availability of input data and the stage of project development (e.g. pre-feasibility vs. feasibility study).
Step 3 - Summary
This section summarizes key results (e.g. electricity export revenue, simple payback, etc.) based on the information entered in the previous steps (i.e., Fuels & schedules and Technology), including detailed information for each fuel type used.
Fully integrated into RETScreen Expert's analytical tools are benchmark, cost, product, hydrology and climate databases (the latter with 6,700 ground-station locations plus NASA satellite data covering the entire surface of the planet), as well as links to worldwide energy resource maps. To help a user rapidly commence analysis, RETScreen has built in an extensive project database of generic clean energy project Archetypes, Case studies & Templates.
Some of the product data requirements for the model are provided in the RETScreen Product Database. To access the product database specific to the type of system being considered, the user may click on the appropriate icon in the Energy Model worksheet. The product database provides information on the equipment associated with the project. From the product database dialogue box the user may obtain product specification and performance data, as well as manufacturer contact information.
Some of the cost data requirements for the model, both initial installed costs and ongoing operation and maintenance (O&M) costs, are provided in the RETScreen Cost Database. To access the cost database specific to the type of system or measure being considered, the user may click on the appropriate icon in the Energy Model worksheet next to the cost data entry cell. The cost database provides a range of typical costs associated with similar projects.
The RETScreen Climate Database includes the meteorological data required in the model. While running the software the user may obtain climate data from ground monitoring stations and/or from NASA's global satellite/analysis data. If climate data is not available from a specific ground monitoring station, data is then provided from NASA's satellite/analysis data. The source of the data (i.e. "Ground" or "NASA") is indicated next to the data in the climate database dialogue box. To access the climate database the user may click on the appropriate icon in the Location worksheet.
The RETScreen Hydro Project Model can be used for any location in the world. For projects in Canada, the user can use Canadian hydrology data included in the RETScreen Hydrology Database. For other project locations around the world, hydrology data from other sources can be entered directly in the worksheet.
Project data - Archetypes | Case studies | Templates
The RETScreen Project Database allows the user to open built-in project examples from a series of "Archetypes," "Templates" and "Case studies," where the software's input and output cells automatically switch directly to the project chosen.
Archetypes: The Virtual energy analyzer's five-star benchmark rating system provides a snapshot of the amount of detail in any given archetype. Mousing over the five stars in the top left portion of the window indicates the spectrum of available information. A five-star archetype provides a significant amount of information (including estimated incremental costing of the proposed project) and can be used as an initial draft of a pre-feasibility study or energy audit. An archetype that is rated less than five-stars will still contain a large amount of valuable information, but will benefit from additional user inputs to help refine the powerful analyses built into the archetype. The user can start a new project using the Virtual energy analyzer by clicking on the appropriate icon on the Open tab on the File worksheet or in the ribbon of the Location worksheet.
Case studies: The project case studies facilitate the use of the RETScreen software by showing actually built clean energy projects and their related technical and financial analysis. They typically include assignments, worked-out solutions (case study data - selected from within the project database), teacher's notes and information about how the projects fared in the real world. The worked-out solution is the data file obtained by double clicking on the case study title via the icon of the Open tab on the File worksheet. The user automatically downloads the Project Database file while downloading the RETScreen software. Information specific to the case study selected is available from the user manual by clicking on the blue hyperlink in the left column.
Templates: The built-in templates facilitate the use of the RETScreen Software by allowing the user to select from a series of generic clean energy projects; to be used as a quick starting point for various types of projects. They typically include assignments and worked-out solutions (templates data - selected from within the project database). The worked-out solution is the data file obtained by double clicking on the template title via the icon of the Open tab on the File worksheet. The user automatically downloads the Project Database file while downloading the RETScreen software. Information specific to the template selected is available from the user manual by clicking on the blue hyperlink in the left column.
To help the user search the database, the order of each column title (e.g. Analysis type, Facility type, etc.) can be sorted alphabetically by clicking on the title. The user can also choose, for example, to have the "Country" column first to the left by dragging the title completely to the left.
The RETScreen Benchmark Database allows the user to compare the energy performance of various types of reference (benchmark) facilities around the world with the estimated (modeled) or monitored (actual) annual energy consumption or production for a target facility. Energy benchmarking is useful to help designers, facility operators, managers and senior decision-makers better gauge a facility's energy performance, i.e., expected energy consumption or production versus reference facilities, and the scope for improvements.
Energy resource maps
In addition to ground-site and NASA satellite data found in the RETScreen Climate Database, the CanmetENERGY research centre located in Varennes has been working with a number of other organizations to develop and integrate Energy Resource Maps directly within the RETScreen software, such as the Global wind map and the Global Wind Atlas.
References and Resources
- A detailed User Manual for the RETScreen Expert software, available in both English and French, is available within the free downloaded software at retscreen.net
- Introduction to RETScreen Expert
- RETScreen eLearning
- RETScreen Expert - Benchmark Analysis
- RETScreen Expert – Feasibility Analysis
- RETScreen Expert - Performance Analysis
- RETScreen Expert - Portfolio Analysis