Monday, March 19, 2012

UPDATE: Zero Net Energy for Commercial New Construction

BOMA San Francisco Members:

UPDATE - March 19, 2012

BOMA California has been actively participating as a stakeholder in California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) workshops and conference calls regarding the Zero Net energy (ZNE) standard by 2030 and a significant portion of commercial construction ZNE by 2020.

Although BOMA is supportive of the state adopting voluntary policies to help more buildings achieve the goal, BOMA members must continuously educate regulators about the serious financial, technical and physical constraints associated with meeting such a policy goal – especially one that is based on a blanket state-wide mandate.

Regulatory staff are beginning to recognize that the existing definition of Zero Net Energy may well be too stringent.  Indeed, they have asked for input on how that definition might be modified in order to make ZNE a more practical goal from both a design and cost standpoint. In response to that concern, the CPUC staff has established a subcommittee to look at possible changes to the definition of ZNE to make it a more realistic goal.  BOMA California remains an active stakeholder in this process.

For more information please click here.


UPDATE - August 20, 2011

Here are some recommendations moving forward as part of a regulatory proceeding at the California Energy Commission:
  •  Mandate all commercial new construction be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2030. ZNE means that over a year that your building generates as much energy onsite as it pulls from the grid;
  • Have the CEC use fines and penalties to enforce energy code at the state level;
  • Use a “societal value” to calculate cost effectiveness for Zero Net Energy. In other words, change the current objective cost calculations required to pass energy code and add in a “subjective” component that will allow mandates for technology that will not pay for itself;
  • Develop “reach” standards (as opposed to incremental “reachable” standards) for adoption at the local level and be included into CALGreen;
  • Increase Title 24 requirements by jumps of 20-30% each adoption over the next three cycles;
  • Require public building rating disclosures;
  • Require energy efficiency improvements in existing buildings not tied to a scheduled improvement;
  • Mandate a time-of-sale or time period trigger for upgrades and disclosures;
  • Shift responsibility on to building owners and managers for reducing tenant plug-loads.
This is happening now in a regulatory process.  Please click below to read the recommendations:

Saving Energy in Existing Buildings and Achieving a Zero‐Net‐Energy Future

Contact us at or if you have any thoughts or opinions on how this might impact your business or to get more involved in the public process.


UPDATE - May 24, 2011

The Public Utilities Commission will conduct a public workshop on June 15 to discuss California’s policy goals relative to achieving Zero Net Energy (ZNE) in all new commercial buildings by 2030. While there is still debate over the definition of ZNE, at a minimum this policy goal will require almost all of a building’s energy supply to come from on-site sources. In addition to cost concerns, there are also serious physical design constraints which must be addressed, as was shown by a recent technical report commissioned by BOMA California.

That report analysis showed that a very energy-efficient 15-story commercial building in Oakland would still need nine acres of solar panels to cover its annual energy needs under such a policy. If that building were to use every inch of rooftop space for solar, that energy system would only generate enough power to cover 4% of the needed power supply.

We support the state working towards the goal of ZNE, but caution against adopting “stretch goal” mandates that knowingly cannot be reached. We are working with the state to consider other strategies in addition to ZNE, such as carbon-neutral buildings and neighborhoods, and increasing the overall supply of renewable energy at the source.

The workshop is scheduled for June 15 in San Francisco. Click here to read the state ZNE Action Plan, designed to identify the key actions required to achieve plan milestones, secure leaders for the steps to achieve these actions, and track and report on progress against the plan.


Original Post - April 16, 2010

Please click here to read the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan--the commercial section starts on page 35--regarding Zero Net Energy (ZNE) use by new and existing buildings in California, and when such an energy standard should go into effect.  The Strategic Plan provides the necessary background information on ZNE and articulates the California Public Utilities Commission's (CPUC) long-term energy efficiency goals for each economic sector and identifies specific strategies to assist in achieving those goals.

Our BOMA California staff is working on the ZNE issue with the CPUC but they need to hear from BOMA San Francisco members as to what they think of GOAL 1: all new developments to be zero net energy users by 2030; and GOAL 2: half of existing buildings must be retrofitted to be zero net energy users by 2030.

BOMA California is also seeking a better clarification on the California Energy Commission's definition of ZNE, because, as it now stands, it would mean onsite energy production. If we can broaden the definition to include off-site clean energy such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, etc., it might become a lot more palatable and achievable for the BOMA San Francisco membership to accomplish.

Please email Ken Cleaveland, BOMA San Francisco's Director of Government and Public Affairs, with your thoughts at

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