US: Zero-energy buildings are focus of growing number of energy efficiency programs
(ACEEE blog, 30 Sep 2020) As building energy codes become more stringent and interest in decarbonization increases, a growing number of energy efficiency programs are focusing on encouraging and assisting buildings that are zero-energy and zero-energy-ready. At least 20 such programs for new construction and major renovation have emerged in the United States and British Columbia, many of them recently, according to an ACEEE topic brief released today.
Together, these programs have an annual budget of about $65 million. They have collectively completed nearly 200 single-family homes, about 900 apartments in multifamily buildings, and 74 commercial buildings (with the commercial space totaling more than two million square feet of floor area). Affordable housing accounts for a significant portion of the multifamily projects. Many additional projects are in process.
What is a zero-energy building?
Our new topic brief discusses these programs and the push to construct homes and buildings that produce as much energy as they use. Such buildings fall into two categories: A zero-energy building is an energy-efficient building that, over the course of a year, produces an amount of onsite energy (typically from photovoltaic panels) that equals or exceeds the energy it buys from utilities plus the energy losses from generation and transmission. Zero-energy-ready buildings are typically highly efficient—efficient enough to be operated with onsite energy but lacking the solar energy systems needed to make the building truly zero-energy. A few programs promote zero-carbon buildings, which emit no net carbon over the course of a year.