California Zero Net Energy Program

California Zero Net Energy Program

I recently read an article about the California Zero Net Energy program whose stated goal is that all new residential construction in California will be zero net energy by 2020. All new commercial construction will be zero net energy by 2030. Zero Net Energy (ZNE) is defined to be that the building will produce as much energy as the building uses over a one year period. This goal will be achieved through a high level of energy efficiency and through the addition of clean, on-site renewable power generation, presumably solar PV. 

Wow … The implications are dramatic for both the home owner and the electric utilities that service the building. As we discussed in previous posts, the electric utility distribution networks have been designed over the last 100 years or so to be a one-way street. The regulated electric utilities built huge electric power generating plants that transmitted the electric power through a network of power transmission lines at ever decreasing voltage levels until the power arrives at the home at typically 120VAC or 240VAC. Balancing the power requirements for the service territory is the support base provided by the large electric power generation capability augmented with “standby” generators for peak loads. A fairly predictable power distribution model.

What happens when a significant share of the end electric power user base becomes at times a power generator? Is the sun shinning in Los Angeles but Santa Barbara is overcast? (FYI Santa Barbara is northwest of LA along the Pacific coast). The source of the electric power generation becomes highly volatile and variable.

More information can be found on the ZNE web site .