Thought Leadership

Achieving Zero Net Energy Buildings


By Jack Clark

January 30, 2015

Roadmap lays out path to clean energy for local jurisdictions

The idea of creating zero net energy (ZNE) homes and buildings is emerging as a realistic goal, for new construction and, to the extent possible, upgrading of existing building stock. While there are various definitions of ZNE, a broadly accepted meaning is a building or home that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year.

For the most part, achieving ZNE in California is driven by new and proposed state building codes (Title 24, Part 6) and energy efficiency standards for appliances. Among the state’s mandated goals are for all new residential construction to be ZNE by 2020 and all new commercial buildings to be ZNE by 2030. However, many local governments, working in collaboration with state and industry stakeholders, are also playing key roles in reaching ZNE.

In terms of achieving zero net energy buildings (or near zero for existing buildings), we should consider what resources and support are necessary for builders, contractors and other industry processionals as we move forward with these goals. Public-private partnerships are critical to maintaining a cost-effective and efficient framework necessary to meet these targets.

Local governments in California have enacted a variety of policies to encourage or require energy efficiency and renewable energy. Many have completed climate actions plans (CAPs) and energy roadmaps and authorized financing initiatives including property assessed clean energy (PACE) programs to help homeowners and businesses finance sustainable energy projects. As a result, a strong foundation has been built upon which to create a pathway to ZNE.

While the policy landscape surrounding ZNE is still evolving, it is clear that local jurisdictions have an opportunity to take a leadership role. CSE recently completed a ZNE buildings report, funded by the San Diego Regional Energy Partnership, providing eight key recommendations that local governments can implement to support and drive the ZNE market.

CSE also has created an interactive, online ZNE Roadmap for Local Governments that guides officials through a series of questions that result in a list of recommendations customized for their jurisdiction. We encourage anyone interested in sustainable buildings and homes to urge their city and county officials to learn more about ZNE and implement policies that support a clean energy future.


Zero Net Energy Buildings: How California’s Local Jurisdictions Can Lead the Way (CSE, Sept. 2014)

Jack Clark

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