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California Moves Closer to Zero Net Energy Goals

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California is the country’s undisputed leader in both policies and projects that are laying the path to an energy efficient future. 

The state continues the march toward its zero net energy (ZNE) goals, with 108 new and renovated commercial buildings that have been either verified as generating as much energy as they consume or are working toward that target.  The count was made official via the recently released CaliforniaZNE Watchlist, which tracks ZNE commercial buildings, including multi-family projects. Buildings with ultra-low energy performance comparable to ZNE are also included.  The Watchlist is funded via the CPUC and developed by the New Buildings Institute (NBI), a national nonprofit group.

The California Energy Commission’s 2007 Integrated Energy Policy Report and the CPUC’s 2008 Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan established goals of having all new residential construction in California be ZNE by 2020 and all new commercial construction ZNE by 2030. 
With the state’s bold vision of the energy future, California has steadily moved toward creating the necessary infrastructure to help design firms and owners realize ultra-low energy buildings. ZNE buildings help fight pollution and address the harmful impacts of climate change. Electricity is responsible for approximately 20 percent of California’s greenhouse gas, with residential and commercial building consuming 70 percent of the electricity (equal to 14 percent of greenhouse gases).

Special attention is being paid to growing momentum behind reducing energy in K-12 schools and community colleges -- both new and existing projects. With energy bills at California’s K-12 public schools totaling more than $700 million a year, innovative energy saving solutions are needed to manage costs. Schools built and renovated to ZNE performance have substantially lower energy costs and over time save money on energy bills that can be spent on students and programs.

One such project is the Oakland Unified School District La Escuelita Education Center, which opened its doors in the Fall of 2014 targeting net zero energy performance. The 123,000-square foot education complex project includes an elementary school, alternative high school, early childhood education center, the District’s television station, and a community health center.

The effort to meet Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s ambitious ZNE goals also extends to state-owned buildings, as California has led by example by adopting an administration-wide definition for ZNE construction and building new ZNE facilities for the Department of Motor Vehicles and State Lottery with a half dozen additional facilities with ZNE potential expected to be under construction in the next year.  

For more information about California’s progress on ZNE, read the ZNE WatchList or sign up for the ZNE Action Bulletin. 

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