In its quest to transform energy use, California has set its sights on the state’s biggest users.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently announced the launch of a 2010–2012 Zero Net Energy Action Plan to help commercial building owners reduce their building energy use to “net-zero.”
Zero-net energy (ZNE) buildings have a net energy consumption of zero over a typical year. Combining the latest advances in efficiency, high-performance and on-site distributed generation from solar, wind and other renewable sources of power, buildings can meet all of their electrical needs without taking any power from the grid.

The plan focuses on the state’s biggest consumer of power. According to the CPUC, buildings use more electricity than any other sector in California. About 5 billion square feet of commercial building space accounts for 38 percent of the state’s total power consumption.

To its credit, the business community is also on board. The Zero Net Energy Action Plan was developed through a collaborative 11-month period with more than 150 stakeholders in commercial building, architecture, finance, clean energy, technology and state government agencies.

Apparently, the concept has already caught on in California, which has more ZNE buildings than any other state in the nation, according to the CPUC.

The action plan implements strategies, sets goals and timelines, and identifies actions and financial incentives to help commercial building owners reduce energy use as part of a larger effort to help the state achieve certain clean-energy milestones. The plan is a key component of the California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, which is expected to save an estimated 2,056 MW and eliminate the need for four new 500-megawatt power plants.