California Aims for Net Zero New Housing by 2020
New energy efficiency standards adopted unanimously by the California Energy Commission will cut energy use in new homes by 28% and take the state closer to its goal of building all new homes to a zero net energy (ZNE) standard by 2020, and all new commercial buildings by 2030.
The new standards take effect January 1, 2017, and will cover lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and water heating.
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“With tens of thousands of homes built every year in California, the energy savings will add up to big environmental benefits,” Waltner writes. “For buildings constructed and retrofitted in 2017 alone, the CEC found that standards will cut energy use by about 281 gigawatt hours of electricity and 16 million therms of natural gas per year, reducing harmful carbon dioxide pollution emissions by about 160,000 metric tons per year.
“After 30 years of construction, the CEC estimates that these savings will add up to the equivalent energy use of 12 large power plants.”
The CEC and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) also released a New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan that charts a course to a net zero residential standard in five years.
“While the prospect of being able to develop net-zero, or passive, homes is increasingly realistic due to falling prices for solar and the increased efficiency of many household appliances, it’s still not easy,” writes Greentech Efficiency, correspondent Katherine Tweed. “The short-term focus is around the building envelope, including better insulation and framing techniques. The goal is to educate builders and have some of these techniques become part of the building code in 2019.”
She adds that, “as with any ambitious project, the devil is in the details. The action plan states that homes can be ZNE-ready, rather than actually being energy-neutral. That could mean they are solar-ready, for instance, but perhaps don’t have solar panels already installed.”
Although the state expects the cost of net zero housing to fall 5-10% over the next two years, there will be issues with valuation of homes that will cost an extra $2 to $8 per square foot after incentives, according to a CPUC estimate. “There will likely need to be incentives or creative utility billing, especially if the homes are providing demand-side services as the CPUC envisions,” Tweed writes. “The CPUC says the utilities are on board and will have to evaluate locational benefits of having net-zero homes on the system.”