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Make renewables work for you

Success in achieving this credit is all about balancing building energy performance with the spatial and renewable energy resources of the site—and balancing the upfront costs of renewable energy with long-term utility bill savings. 

Teams should start by identifying an energy budget to estimate the size of the system needed to achieve each credit threshold. This target could be from CBECS, the ASHRAE baseline if early modeling has been conducted, or from an energy performance target. Reducing energy consumption as much as possible will make it much easier to achieve the percentage thresholds of this credit.

Then, be sure to compare as many financial options and types of systems as possible to find what will work for the project. Don’t forget that the biggest benefit will be for the people paying the utility bills, and engage them to find the best approach. Many utilities have rebate programs that can help with financing.   

What’s New in the LEED v4.1 beta

  • The unit of measure is now reduction in GHG emissions, not annual energy cost.
  • The v4 Green Power credit has been removed from v4.1 and replaced with an off-site renewable energy option that lives within the new Renewable Energy credit.
  • Off-site options, via power purchase agreements (PPAs), are further broken down into new and existing off-site renewables, where new off-site resources are worth more than existing off-site resources. Onsite resources are valued the highest of all.
  • One can still purchase RECs (or Energy Attribute Credits) or carbon offsets, and three points are available, but much higher thresholds are now imposed (100% to 300% of a project’s GHG emissions). To qualify, existing off-site renewables, Energy Attribute Credits (RECs), and carbon offsets must be procured from projects that have come online or been built within the last 15 years.

What’s New in LEED v4

  • Solar gardens and community systems are now eligible for this credit, as long as the project will own or lease the system for at least ten years and it’s located in the same utility area. If your project owns a fraction of a community garden, then you can take credit for that fraction of production in this credit.
  • This is a great opportunity where onsite conditions aren’t good for renewables, or where taking on maintenance and operations might be out of reach for the occupant organization.
  • Credit thresholds are much more stringent than they were in LEED 2009. For all BD+C rating systems except CS, you won’t earn a second point until reaching 5% energy cost coverage, so be sure to plan targets accordingly.
  • The maximum threshold for CS projects has increased from 1% to 5%, to acknowledge the impacts that decisions in the CS stage can have on later building operations.