There are many reasons to pursue clean energy alternatives in both new-built and renovated/upgraded buildings. The most obvious is, of course, the direct economic benefit of either reducing ongoing energy costs by using fuel and electricity more efficiently, or by eliminating these costs entirely when incorporating renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power.

However, there are other benefits as well. In some cases, the building owner may be required by law to use greener sources of energy in order to help protect the environment, for example by reducing air pollution. In other cases, the building's owner may wish to incorporate clean power in order to promote a green image to the residents or occupants of the building (in the case of an office building or residential complex) or visitors to the building (such as shoppers in a retail facility).

In this paper, we take a broad view of the clean energy decision. Instead of asking, “how can builders install solar or wind in their facilities?”, we want to know, “how can builders best achieve the goals that clean energy can deliver?” We see three options that can help to answer this broader question, namely on-site renewable energy, on-site energy efficiency, and off-site clean energy. As we go through these options in this paper, we will be answering questions such as:

  • What background about the energy scene does the green builder need in order to make an informed decision about clean energy?

  • What are some of the obstacles and opportunities that arise when incorporating on-site clean energy technologies?

  • What are some of the pros and cons of on-site versus off-site clean energy options?

The focus of the paper is mainly on options for electricity supply, but some of the points raised are applicable to heating and hot water energy supply as well.

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