For years, California has been a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable power. The state’s new long-range plan for energy use will help solidify the Golden State as a leader for decades into the future.

In September, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted the state’s first Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. It is designed to present a single roadmap for achieving maximum energy savings across all major groups and sectors, including government, utilities and the commercial and private sectors. The plan, which has a timeframe extending from 2009 to 2020, is the state’s first integrated framework of goals and strategies for saving energy. It underscores efficiency as the highest priority resource for meeting California’s energy needs.

The plan emphasizes four strategies as cornerstones for significant energy savings. According to the plan, all new residential construction in California will be zero net energy by the year 2020. All new commercial construction in California will be zero net energy by 2030. The heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry will be reshaped to ensure optimal equipment performance. Finally, all eligible low-income homes will be energy efficient by 2020.

Zero net energy is defined as a structure that, through a combination of efficiency and on-site, or distributed, generation of power (from solar or other renewable sources), does not consume more power than it produces. Energy purchased from the grid during times of peak demand is replaced during off-hours by surplus on-site generated power.

The Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan was developed by a consensus, stakeholder-driven process. More than 500 individuals and organizations, across the state and nationally, participated in its development, providing input through 40 public meetings and workshops.