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Abstract This research investigates a method of choosing economically optimal DER, expanding on prior studies at the Berkeley Lab using the DER design optimization program, the Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model (DER-CAM). DER-CAM finds the optimal combination of installed equipment from available DER technologies, given prevailing utility tariffs, site electrical and thermal loads, and a menu of available equipment. It provides a global optimization, albeit idealized, that shows how the site energy loads can be served at minimum cost by selection and operation of on-site generation, heat recovery, and cooling. Five prototype Japanese commercial buildings are examined and DER-CAM applied to select the economically optimal DER system for each. The five building types are office, hospital, hotel, retail, and sports facility. Based on the optimization results, energy and emission reductions are evaluated. Furthermore, a Japan-U.S. comparison study of policy, technology, and utility tariffs relevant to DER installation is presented. Significant decreases in fuel consumption, carbon emissions, and energy costs were seen in the DER-CAM results. Savings were most noticeable in the sports facility, followed by the hospital, hotel, and office building.