RETScreen in Brazil: a success story of private sector engagement

This case study focuses on how RETScreen has enabled the private sector in Brazil to undertake detailed assessments on renewable energy and energy efficiency. RETScreen is a software that supports the quantitative analysis of energy production and savings, costs, emission reductions, financial viability and risk assessment of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The tool is frequently used by the private sector in various contexts and has been developed for global use. Funding for the software development by an international network of developers, which includes regular updates and trainings on using the software,  is provided by the Canadian government. 

A technical tool for technical people

Pedro Paulo de Silva Filho, a consulting engineer and Director General of Grupo SAGE has years of experience promoting, designing and implementing renewable energy and energy efficiency (RET) projects throughout Brazil. He is a frequent user of the RETScreen software. For Pedro and his colleagues at GrupoSAGE, RETScreen is a time-saver that provides high-quality outputs, and because it is provided for free, it has a low cost of adoption. However, since it is a complex software package it requires sufficient time and training as well as a fundamental understanding of technologies and investment operations.
All-round talent

Grupo SAGE uses the tool for a variety of purposes, such as conducting pre-feasibility studies for the implementation of renewable energy or energy efficiency measures. One of the most common project types that the tool focuses on are fuel switch projects such as the replacement of electric water boilers with solar water boilers in industrial applications. In addition they have applied RETScreen to optimise energy use at a milk powder plant through the application of biomass as a fuel source.

Flexible tool with unused potential

Pedro appreciates the ease with which RETScreen allows engineers to perform the needed calculations to estimate energy and cost savings according to both sector [residential, commercial or industrial] and project size. In the future he would like to do more work in the building sector. In addition to using the tool himself, Pedro also receives training requests from industry associations, energy suppliers, and even engineers from small companies. Training can take anywhere from one to two weeks depending on the level needed and normally clients come back with follow-up questions over the following few months.

Challenges in applying RETScreen beyond the private sector

One of the lessons from Grupo SAGE’s experience of using RETScreen software is that the offered services it provides to regional governments have not been actively taken up. Pedro attributes this to the lack of importance assigned to emissions reductions (it is not one of their top agenda items) and because their financial situation does not provide for the resources needed to train and build capacity. However, he sees some hope as there are possible links to public funding for example through World Bank initiatives. Many international projects request feasibility studies to be conducted using RETScreen when applying for a funding from a credit line. With features that are helpful for decision makers, such as benchmarking the performance of a technology in a specific region, GrupoSAGE expects to see the tool have increased usage among policy-makers in the near future.