Key Takeaways

  • 1,405 projects were reported with renewable energy in reporting year 2021, an increase of 81.3% above 2020. In total, 6.8% of projects reported in 2021 included at least one kind of renewable energy.
  • Gross square footage reported in 2021 increased 108.1% from 2020, totaling 300,792,682 gross square feet. 8.3% of all gross square footage reported in 2021 included renewable energy.
  • 95% of projects that reported renewable energy in 2021 used on-site renewable energy and almost 89% used on-site solar photovoltaics.
  • 77.5% of the 292 net-zero projects reported in 2021 used at least one kind of on-site renewable energy and 6.8% used two or more kinds of on-site renewable energy.
  • 51 of the 292 net-zero projects reported in 2021, or 17.4%, used off-site renewable energy.  
  • 9.9% of the 292 net-zero projects reported in 2021, 29 projects total, used both on and off-site renewable energy.

Use either on-site or off-site renewable energy

As the pEUI target of the 2030 Commitment has ramped up, the need to add renewable energy to projects has crystallized. Once projects have reduced predicted energy use intensity (pEUI) as much as possible, renewables are necessary to reach net zero or net positive terrain. And we’ll need more and more renewables as 2030, with its net zero target, approaches.

Additionally, buildings that have renewable energy paired with electric or thermal energy storage can actually help clean up the grid. That’s because they can reduce grid stress during peak times, preventing the need for utility companies to power up dirty “peaker plants.”

Even if a building owner isn’t interested in, or can’t afford, renewables right away, it’s vital to ensure they can be added later. A “renewable-ready” building has design elements that make it easy to add renewables after construction. For example, optimizing building orientation, roof design, and electrical systems can ease the cost of adding solar photovoltaics (PV) and can improve PV performance in the future.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to add and pay for renewable energy.

  • On-site options include solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind turbine, heat pump, geothermal, micro-hydroelectric, and biomass.
  • Off-site options include virtual power purchase agreements, direct ownership of an off-site system, purchase of unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs), joining a long-term community renewable program, renewable energy investment fund, direct access to wholesale markets, and green retail tariffs. But buyer, beware! It’s important to verify additionality, meaning that the building owner is purchasing renewable power that would not have existed otherwise.

PV isn’t the only game in town, and the DDx also allows users to report on wind, micro-hydro, and several other renewable energy sources. Yet, today, solar remains the most commonly reported type of renewable energy, with on-site solar PV representing 88.7% of the projects reporting renewable energy in 2021.

In 2021, 1,405 projects totaling 300 million square feet reported using renewable energy, a 81.2% increase in the number of projects and 108.1% increase in gross square footage . Of these, 1,335 projects used on-site renewables, 143 projects used off-site renewables, and 87 used both.

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WPVisions LLC

There was a significant jump of total projects reporting renewables from 775 in 2020 to 1,405 to 2021.


Total GSF reporting for renewables jumped from 144.5m in 2020 to 300.8m in 2021.


A vast majority of projects reported photovoltaic (1,247 count) as their renewable energy option.


The highest number of projects reporting renewable energy by use type were multi-family residential (337) following by single-family residential (260) and then office (237).


Only 6.8% of projects reported using renewable energy options in 2021.