California's Public Utilities Commission is making good. They're not the most well-loved public agency since the 2001 power crisis, but the goal to make all new residential construction Zero Net Energy by 2002, as published in this announcement, is a big step in the right direction. When population size is rapidly growing, as it is across the West and Southwest, conservation efforts can be overwhelmed by the construction of new homes... even energy-efficient ones.
If implemented well, we think the idea of Zero Net Energy could redefine the way houses are built and the way we think of community. One problem with energy conservation is that it's been a very individualistic pursuit: sure, you can insulate your hot water heater or weatherstrip your front door. But if the goal is to zero out energy use among a neighborhood, community, or apartment building, you might start looking at things differently. Our roof, for example, gets lots of sun and is perfect for PV solar panels, but our neighbor's house is in the shade; it's not a good location to generate electricity, but it also doesn't use much power. What if we pooled our resources?
We think this this increased awareness of location and the access to resources could change how you relate to your neighbors... but that's just our opinion.
Would you be willing to work together to get your building or your neighborhood towards Zero Net Energy?
image by pflores via sxc.hu
thanks to Hui Zhang at UC Berkeley's Center for the Built Environment for the tip