Santa Monica Passes Zero Net Energy Building Requirement

The Santa Monica, Calif., City Council recently voted to approve an ordinance requiring all new single-family construction in the city to be zero net energy (ZNE).

Although there are various definitions for ZNE buildings, the city says it is adopting the definition used in the 2016 California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). According to CALGreen, a ZNE building is one where the value of energy produced on-site by renewable energy resources is equal to the value of the energy consumed annually by the building. The city’s ordinance now goes to the California Energy Commission for approval, and implementation is slated to begin in 2017.

“Santa Monica is proud to take a global lead in zero net energy building standards that put the state’s environmental policy to action. [The] council’s adoption of this new ordinance reflects our city’s continued commitment to the environment,” said Mayor Tony Vazquez. “ZNE construction, considered the gold standard for green buildings, is a major component that will help us reach our ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

“This ordinance makes environmental and economic sense,” added Dean Kubani, Santa Monica’s chief sustainability officer. “With the price of utility power continuing to rise, ZNE homeowners will avoid those escalating costs while benefitting from local renewable power for all of their energy needs.”

In 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted California’s first Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, which presented a roadmap for all California buildings to be ZNE. The roadmap committed California to requiring all new residential construction achieve ZNE by 2020 and all new commercial construction achieve ZNE by 2030. With this new ZNE ordinance, Santa Monica claims it is the first city in California to adopt a ZNE ordinance.

“Santa Monica’s new zero net energy ordinance is a forward-thinking measure that will help California meet its statewide energy efficiency goals,” said California Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “This ordinance reflects the city’s leadership on local policymaking, as well as its commitment to doing its part to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and energy consumption.”

Santa Monica staff collaborated with utility Southern California Edison and consultant TRC Energy Services to analyze the cost-effectiveness of locally adopted standards that meet the CALGreen ZNE requirements.

Santa Monica says the timing of its ordinance capitalizes on state momentum toward ZNE and market trends in the solar industry. With the cost of solar installation continuing to decrease, Santa Monica residents and developers can combine cost-effective energy-efficient design with affordable renewable energy to build ZNE homes, the city says. These new homes will contribute to the city’s robust long-range goals for energy and climate mitigation, including releasing zero carbon by 2050.

In addition to ZNE for single-family homes, the Santa Monica ordinance also requires that non-residential construction be designed to use 10% less energy than required by the 2016 California Energy Code.

(To learn about the emergence of net-zero neighborhoods that include solar power, check out the recent Solar Industry E-Feature “It’s A Beautiful Day In The Net-Zero Neighborhood” by clicking here.)


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