Zero Net Energy

Here are two articles about the shift that’s already happening in two states – both oriented toward providing 100% clean, renewable energy.

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Building to Reshape 

U.S. Construction Industry

 

Originally published on SEFAIRA.

By Carl Sterner

California’s recent revisions to Title 24 put in place ambitious performance goals: all residential buildings must be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020, and all commercial buildings must follow suit by 2030. The code also applies to retrofit projects that pass certain thresholds. (A ZNE building produces as much energy on-site as it consumes on an annual basis.) These changes promise to reshape the construction industry in significant ways — and not just in California. Here’s how.

 

  1. Drive adoption of building energy codes. Already all but seven US states have commercial building energy codes in place, and many are continually updating to the most recent (and increasingly stringent) standards. The codes are also becoming increasingly performance-based — for instance, the latest version of the IECC includes an additional performance-based pathway that’s already popular in many states. California’s Title 24 raises the bar — and simultaneously raises awareness of what’s possible. As the construction industry rises to California’s challenge, it will also be building the capacity to achieve similar results elsewhere. Expect the adoption of performance-based energy codes to accelerate throughout the US.
  1. Speed the development of building monitoring and management technologies. Rather than incentivizing one-off strategies like better light bulbs, the Title 24 revisions focus on delivering measurable whole building energy reductions. This will create a large market for an array of “smart building” technologies required to measure and manage energy use across a wide range of building types. Essentially, California is using its purchasing power as the ninth largest economy in the world to spur the development of technologies around management of peak energy loads, plug load controls, advanced lighting controls, demand response technology, and more.
  1. Accelerate on-site energy storage. California is aware that a steep increase in renewable energy must come with an investment in a smart electricity grid — and energy storage is a key part of the equation. Storage is intended to help address the intermittency of renewable energy generation, and can also improve the resilience of the electricity grid overall. Watch for building-level storage technologies to become more numerous, more efficient, and cheaper.
  1. Reduce the cost of high performance building. California’s code provides certainty around the market for high performance buildings and related technologies. This will drive increased investments in these technologies, which in turn will drive down costs. An emphasis on real energy savings will also improve financing options for buildings that can deliver a clear return. (Read more on how designers are delivering high performance at low cost.) In addition, Title 24 will spread Zero Net Energy know-how throughout the construction industry — to architects, engineers, builders, and suppliers. This familiarity is a critical step toward reducing costs and mainstreaming high performance design.
  1. Create competition for architects around performance. Net Zero Energy goals will put pressure on architects, engineers, and builders to deliver expected results — and to measure their progress at every step.

This will mean incorporating energy modeling from day one on every project, and ramping up the capacity for predictive energy modeling. Says economist and former PG&E executive Bill Roth:

 

“Architects and general contractors that have

competitive advantages in smart building tech-

nologies will be in the position to bid jobs that

include building performance assurances to

building owners and sources of capital.

 

“The building industry is now entering a new

bid environment where bids are won not only

on price but also on performance assurances.”

 

While Title 24’s mandates apply only to California, its effects will have ripple effects throughout the construction industry — ultimately driving down the costs of high-performance building while raising expectations and stimulating demand.

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Illinois Powers 91 Communities

With 100 Percent Clean Energy

Brandon Baker

March 8, 2014

Many people don’t know of a state with more than one community using 100-percent renewable electricity, but one state has nearly 100 of them.

Illinois has 91 communities that have achieved 100-percent renewable energy, according to “Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy,” a report released Friday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association and George Washington University Solar Institute. Each of the communities used group buying power to purchase electricity with renewable energy credits.

Illinois is one of six states in the country that allows community choice aggregation (CCA), a system where residents can use their bulk purchasing to solicit bids from energy providers.  Chris Koos, mayor of Normal, Ill, says …

 

“We look at community aggregation as a way to

Get our city a great price on electricity, and we

see it as a way to advance our sustainability goals.

 

“We are proud that Normal and almost 100 other

Illinois cities and towns are model for the nation

in having those two goals go hand-in-hand.”

 

The 91 municipalities, villages and communities represent about 1.7 million people.

According to the reporting agencies, bid requests can demand a mix of energy sources. In Illinois, the 91 communities stipulated that all electricity is offset by renewable energy credits, or energy that comes from the likes of wind, solar and geothermal sources. New Jersey, Ohio, California, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are the other states that allow CCA.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Said …

 

“The findings of today’s report are an example of Illinois

leading our country’s movement to a more sustainable

future from the community level.  Communities up

and down the state have banded together to pursue

renewable electricity, reducing both their utility

costs and the state’s environmental footprint.

 

“Illinois is showing what can happen when

change at the local level is harnessed to create a

collective movement, and I hope other states take notice.”

 

The report includes individual stories about various Illinois communities and how they used purchasing power to go green, including Oak Park Village, known as the first U.S. city to secure 100-percent renewable energy for its residents via CCA.

K.C. Doyle, Oak Park’s sustainability manager, said …

 

“We saw [municipal] aggregation as not just being

about the best price, but about responding to

the idea of preparing for climate change and

a smart community future.  In the process,

it went from being a dialogue about deva-

station to a conversation about hope.”

 

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Clean renewable energy is already here.  And it’s growing.  The cost for PV power is now less than for coal.  And as clean energy methods are increasingly adopted, their cost will drop further.

But – rather than just reading about it, it’s up to each of us to make changes in how we power our homes … and cars.  (We added 2 kW of PV to power our e-car, and don’t even glance at gas prices any longer!  It’s quiet driving at a fraction of the cost.)

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