Zero-Net Energy

Zero-Net-Energy (ZNE) new buildings offer numerous benefits including optimum energy performance, reduced criteria pollutants, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, as well as non‐energy benefits such as improved comfort and building functionality.

Simply put, a ZNE building generates at least as much energy as it consumes annually. For a more technical definition, see our ZNE Defined page. 

A number of studies have shown that 'Getting to Zero' is technically feasible in California, most readily in newly constructed residential buildings, but also in most types of nonresidential facilities. ZNE generally costs less when teams use truly 'integrated' design to optimize energy efficiency first, thereby reducing the loads that must be offset with onsite generation (typically a solar photovoltaic system).

Tall buildings (with limited space for solar modules onsite), or other highly energy-intensive buildings (such as small restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, etc.) may have difficulty reaching "zero" unless offsetting renewable generation can be located offsite.

Existing buildings can reach Zero-Net Energy too. Watch the Office of the Future video below, or learn more about Deep Energy Retrofits.

image: ZNE Center, San Leandro, CA


  • Prop 39 ZNE School Retrofit Workshops
    October 25, 2016
    1 comments

    A zero net energy (ZNE) building generates as much energy as it consumes annually. With energy bills at California’s schools totaling more than $700 million a year, innovative energy solutions for schools like ZNE buildings are being proposed as a way to save energy and put money back into classrooms.

    To help schools achieve successful ZNE retrofits, we’re offering the following upcoming no-cost ZNE workshops...

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  • 2016 - Opportunity Announcement: Prop 39 ZNE Schools Pilot
    March 29, 2016
    1 comments

    The California Investor Owned Utilities' (IOUs') Proposition 39 Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Pilot Program (Pilot) seeks to assist public K-12 School and California Community Colleges with zero net energy (ZNE) performance goals. This document outlines the background, scope of assistance, eligibility, and selection criteria information for the Pilot

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  • e-News #97: Zero Net Energy Case Studies
    October 26, 2015
    1 comments

    Pacific Gas and Electric established a Zero Net Energy Pilot Program as a particular way to meet the goals of the 2008 California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. This EDR eNews features highlights from six early ZNE nonresidential projects that are described in greater detail in a full length monograph written by Edward Dean ...

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  • Architecture At Zero 2015
    May 31, 2015
    1 comments

    The Architecture at Zero competition, now in its fifth year, is dedicated to furthering the knowledge-building and practice of Zero Net Energy building in California. By encouraging innovative design solutions to site-specific design challenges, the competition aims to broaden thinking about the technical and aesthetic possibilities of zero net energy projects. Further, it seeks to raise the profile of ZNE among built-environment professionals, students, and the general public in California and beyond.

    read more...


  • 2015 Opportunity Announcement: Prop 39 ZNE Schools Pilot
    May 13, 2015
    1 comments

    The California Investor Owned Utilities' (IOUs') Proposition 39 Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Pilot Program (Pilot) seeks to assist public K-12 School and California Community Colleges with zero net energy (ZNE) performance goals. This document outlines the background, scope of assistance, eligibility, and selection criteria information for Round 1 (2015) of the Pilot

    read more...


  • Case Studies: Zero Net Energy Non-Residential Buildings
    April 12, 2015
    1 comments

    Six non-residential buildings were designed and built to perform at zero net energy (ZNE) consumption over the course of a year. Extensively monitored under the Pacific Gas & Electric Company's ZNE Pilot Program, each has proven to meet or exceed that level of performance for at least one year of post-construction occupancy.

    These case studies show that building industry leaders who target this new level of building performance can meet this challenge, reinforcing California's reputation for being the incubator and early adopter of transformative ideas with practical feasibility.

    read more...


  • IOU Prop 39 ZNE Schools Pilot - Proposal
    January 29, 2015
    1 comments

    This slideshow summarizes a proposal by the investor owned utilities (IOUs) that was presented to Prop 39 stakeholders for feedback during a webinar on January 30, 2015.

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  • Beyond Title 24 2013 Energy Standards - Residential
    December 11, 2014
    1 comments

    The statewide California Advanced Homes Program (CAHP) provides design assistance, quality control, and substantial financial incentives to builders that are ready to learn and demonstrate best practices in energy efficiency, green building and sustainability. 

    Single family and mulitfamily developers qualify for CAHP by demonstrating...

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  • Case Studies: Zero-Net Energy New Home - Ontairo
    October 5, 2014
    1 comments

    This Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) home – now built and occupied in Ontario, California – demonstrates to the Southern California homebuilder community that ZNE homes can be constructed using prevalent building practices and sold for a reasonable incremental cost.

    The main tasks of this project were to collaborate with a progressive expert homebuilder to design and construct a ZNE home based on mutually agreed upon technologies and practices, learning together to help overcome existing market barriers to ZNE homes.

    Some of the key findings of this project include ...

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  • Zero-Net Energy Defined
    August 17, 2014
    1 comments

    A Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) building generates at least as much energy as it consumes annually.

    Specifically, the California Energy Commission, working with the CPUC and numerous stakeholders, has proposed the following definition for a “ZNE Code Building”...

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  • The Road to ZNE - Mapping Pathways to ZNE Buildings in California
    December 19, 2012
    1 comments

    This report focuses on the first two “big bold” goals in the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan related to zero net energy (ZNE) buildings:

    • All new residential construction will be zero net energy by 2020
    • All new commercial construction will be zero net energy by 2030

    These goals are clearly ambitious; both from the technical and building market perspectives.

    read more...


  • Office of the Future
    October 15, 2012
    1 comments

    The 'Office of the Future' video presents case studies of two exemplary pilot projects in existing buildings that are yielding measured energy savings of over 50% and 66% respectively.

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  • Rethinking Percent Savings
    July 31, 2009
    1 comments

    The Problem with Percent Savings and
    the New Scale for a Zero Net-Energy Future

    Energy incentive programs, green building rating systems, and energy labeling programs are commonly based on percent savings past code minimum. This white paper proposes a more stable scale to replace percent savings.

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