Energy neutral homes urged
California energy regulators Thursday adopted a target that all homes built after 2020 produce at least as much energy as they consume to reduce demand for electricity and cut pollution tied to power generation.
The California Public Utilities Commission approved the guideline at a meeting in San Francisco. Homes would meet the goal through such measures as advanced insulation and solar power systems.
The state also adopted a target that all new commercial buildings meet the zero-net-energy target by 2030. California is one of the most aggressive states in offering utilities financial incentives to promote energy efficiency to reduce demand for electricity.
“Saving energy will be a lifestyle,” Commissioner Dian Grueneich said at Thursday’s meeting. “It keeps the lights on, it saves money and it significantly decreases greenhouse-gas emissions.”
There are little data collected on how many of the approximately 1 million new homes built each year in the U.S. achieve zero-net-energy status, said Paul Norton, a senior engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Interest in energy-efficient buildings is rising because of higher electricity prices and concerns about global warming, he said.
“There’s still lots of room to make homes more efficient,” Norton said in an interview last month. “It is taking some time, but it is happening.”
Investing more in insulation can result in needing fewer heating ducts and using a smaller furnace, thereby offsetting some of the increase in building costs, Norton said.
California may influence the building industry by requiring utilities to offer financial incentives that lower the cost of energy-efficient structures, Grueneich said in an interview last month.
Utilities regulated by the commission include Edison International’s Southern California Edison, PG&E; Corp.'s Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric Co. The ruling adopted Thursday requires the utilities to devise a single, statewide plan for implementing energy-efficiency initiatives.