Zero-Net-Energy Homes Mean Opportunities For ECs

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, zero-net-energy (ZNE) homes, which would focus heavily on solar-plus-storage, could become the new norm.

The CPUC and the California Energy Commission (CEC) have launched a “New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan,” with the goal of building a self-sustaining energy market, such that all new homes would be ZNE by 2020.

ZNE facilities produce as much energy as they consume, usually through a mix of high-efficiency design; clean, on-site generation (such as solar); and energy storage (such as batteries).

The plan calls for designers and developers to create a set of technical tools that will be available by mid-2016 to bring ZNE homes to market. The plan calls for a systematic way to value these homes by the end of 2016, to provide appropriate guidance to underwriters and financial institutions.

The state expects to see more than 10,000 new ZNE homes by 2017, with substantially more by 2019–2020.

The action plan states that it may be sufficient for homes simply to be ZNE-ready. For example, this could mean that they are solar-ready, even if they don’t have solar panels installed. Another focus is making sure that the homes are “utility-friendly,” with the installation of smart inverters, two-way thermostats to take advantage of demand-response opportunities, and more.

In addition, homes will be expected to have high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. They will likely also have energy-management systems to dynamically control energy loads, such as lights and thermostats, and the potential to shut off plug loads when not in use.

Finally, the CPUC noted that energy storage is a critical component of ZNE homes. The specifics of sizing the energy storage—large enough to help meet a home’s energy demand but not so large that it will lead to excessive costs—is crucial.

“Zero-net energy has been a vision for California for nearly 10 years, and, with this industry-supported action plan, we are now ready to make that vision a reality with feasible, market-driven concepts to transform the new residential housing market,” said Carla J. Peterman, CPUC commissioner, in a press release.

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