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California Regulators Promote Zero-Energy Homes

California energy regulators on Monday launched a statewide effort to create a new home market that will feature zero net energy (ZNE) houses by 2020, establishing a joint-agency action plan for integrating stakeholder input as the effort unfolds with help from the major utilities.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Energy Commission (CEC) indicated they have the support of the state's industry to develop new homes for the 2020 market that use zero net energy through stringent building standards and equipment, along with the use of solar energy. If accomplished, it would satisfy a long-held vision in the state to have residences that produce more energy annually than they consume.

With its industry-backed action plan, the CPUC and CEC will hold a first ZNE workshop in San Francisco Tuesday at the CPUC headquarters. The action plan will be discussed and speakers from the home building sector, two state regulatory agencies, and engineering professionals will make presentations, a CPUC spokesperson said Monday.

Described as high performing, very efficient houses, ZNE homes incorporate solar along with various efficiency measures so the structure produces as much energy or more than it needs. "The action plan addresses building demand and awareness of ZNE homes, training and education for the industry, and creating the right tools, along with aligning state and local government efforts in this area," a CPUC spokesperson said.

A former CEC commissioner who is now a CPUC member, Carla Peterman, called ZNE "an innovative and achievable goal" and will help California meet  its climate change goals and Gov. Jerry Brown's goals for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. "ZNE has been a vision for Calfiornai for nearly 10 years," Peterman said.

ZNE's action plan was developed through a collaborative 18-month process, representing the work of 150 stakeholders in a variety of fields from home/apartment buildings to architecture to technology, said the CPUC spokesperson. The action plan outlines a path to implement the state's Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic plan for new residential sector facilities.

More details about the five key focus areas of the plan are provided at the newly established ZNE homes website (www.CaliforniaZNEHomes.com).

"California has been a clean energy leader for decades," said CEC Commissioner Andrew McAllister, the CEC's lead commissioner on energy efficiency. "ZNE solutions are technically feasible, and the market is developing the talent and expertise to implement them seamlessly and cost-effectivly, and the new plan helps accelerate that process."

If California were its own country, it would be the 10th-largest non-U.S. natural gas-consuming country in the world, according to Energy Information Administration data and NGI calculations. 

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