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PROFORM: Assessing Energy and Environmental Impacts

Forest as an example of environment

How much energy is saved by spending X dollars installing energy-efficient lights, and what is the financial return on that investment? How many tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are avoided by developing a 50-megawatt wind farm? How does switching from burning coal to burning natural gas in a generating plant reduce emissions? ProForm, a free spreadsheet program developed by researchers in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), has been answering these questions for users all over the world since 2000, and its developers have just released a new, easier-to-use Version 4.0.

Energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects are increasingly popular as governments and international agencies recognize the benefits of these efforts. Projects of this type help reduce the cost of supplying energy, improve the environment by reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases, lower citizens' energy bills, and increase the reliability of energy supply. ProForm helps users quantify these benefits.

ProForm's development was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the program now has more than 1,000 registered users in 60 countries. Roughly 60 percent of registered ProForm users are outside the United States. About 15 percent of these users are affiliated with domestic or international governments, 10 percent are with universities or other learning institutions, and 10 percent are with non-profit organizations. ProForm has been used to calculate financial returns and greenhouse-gas emissions savings from micro-hydro projects in Guatemala, photovoltaic installation programs in South Africa, and wind farms in Mongolia, among many other examples.

EETD researcher William Golove says, "We designed ProForm to make it easy to assess the environmental and financial impacts of renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. Give it the necessary data, and ProForm 4.0 calculates basic financial indicators and avoided emissions of CO2 and local air pollutants expected from a project.

"We'd like as many potential new users as possible learn about ProForm; it's a very powerful, robust, and mature software tool that can really help ease the process of getting energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects underway," adds Golove.

Used by project planners at both government and international agencies as well as private companies developing efficiency and renewables projects, ProForm is simple enough to quickly analyze projects on the drawing board, but it applies a sophisticated economic analysis to produce credible results.

Wind farm

"A typical application is a developer preparing a project proposal to submit to potential investors, financiers, or a national climate-change office," explains Golove. "ProForm allows project developers, financial institutions, and other parties to investigate how changes in basic assumptions affect the key parameters of a project."

The new version of ProForm has an easier-to-use interface and is much more powerful and complete than the previous version, thanks to changes suggested by users. For example, Version 4.0 can analyze two new types of projects: fuel switching and landfill methane-gas capture. Fuel-switching projects involve substituting a less carbon-intensive fuel for a more intensive one. Landfill methane-gas-capture projects make use of the methane generated by solid-waste decomposition to generate energy. The captured methane is used either to generate electricity or provide heat.

The new Proform 4.0 also allows more detailed financial calculations of project revenues and expenses and more complicated financing methods than the previous version. For example, a user can analyze projects that rely on more than one loan for financing.

The newly updated tool is now available for download at:http://poet.lbl.gov/Proform/.

The download includes a brief introductory document, a detailed new user manual, and five case studies demonstrating how to use ProForm for a wide variety of projects.

For more information, contact:

  • William H. Golove
  • (510) 486-5229; Fax (510) 486-6996

Proform: A Tool for Assessment of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects

This research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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