While achieving a community-scale ZNE vision requires collaboration and coordination with multiple stakeholder groups, local governments are uniquely positioned to drive policy, demonstrate leadership, create incentives, and unlock funding. The Hub showcases the following key steps to implementing and advancing ZNE in your community, and provide a set of best practices, case studies, and resources to assist agencies in spearheading ZNE implementation at the local level. Note that these steps overlap and are not meant to be taken in isolation or chronologically.

  1. Create a Vision: Build your team and outline your definition and scope.
  2. Identify and Engage Key Stakeholders: Involve stakeholders early to create buy-in and build trust in ZNE efforts within the community.
  3. Demonstrate Leadership: Set targets and goals, adopt ordinances and resolutions that move your community closer to ZNE, and move the municipal building stock towards ZNE.
  4. Support Your Community: Create incentives and unlock funding to support residential and commercial ZNE construction and retrofits.
Create a Vision

Build Your Team

Building a dedicated and knowledgeable team of key internal and external stakeholders can help to streamline the policy development and planning process while ensuring that important perspectives are accounted for. Although your team can be structured into various committees, which may change over time, it is important to have a core committed group of people that remain to manage the process throughout the duration. It is also important to consider your jurisdiction’s demographics and existing building types in order to identify and engage all key players who may need to be involved.

Internal stakeholders should include staff from relevant departments such as planning, engineering, public works, and sustainability, as well as interested executives and elected officials.

External stakeholders can also be included from the key stakeholder groups identified in the next section, as well as committed individuals from relevant industries such as architecture, design, engineering, and technology.

Recommended steps from CSE’s roadmap:

  1. Establish a taskforce through public statute.
  2. Include all relevant public departments as well as key stakeholders from the private sector.
  3. Appoint staff to lead and coordinate efforts.
  4. Establish deliverables and performance metrics for staff.
Task Force Examples
  • Cambridge Getting to Net Zero Task Force: The City of Cambridge, MA created a Getting to Net Zero Task Force to develop a roadmap to meet the city’s ZNE goals. The task force established four working groups: energy supply and offsets, engagement and behavior change, regulation and planning approaches, incentives and financing tools. Coming out of this process, the task force developed a best practices guide that includes their policy targets and strategies as well as case studies of other cities across the nation (including San Francisco from California) that have been leaders in ZNE policies and implementation.
  • City of La Mesa: Established a Sustainable Building Task Force in 2004 comprised of building industry professionals, nonprofit organizations, and other stakeholders to evaluate the feasibility of integrating sustainable building techniques into all new buildings and through major building retrofits.

Set Your ZNE Definition and Scale

Key questions to consider when determining the definition and scale of your agency’s ZNE policies and efforts:

  • What is the scope of energy consumption? Do you include building operation energy use, embedded energy, energy used during construction, transportation energy used by building occupants in the duration of their occupancy, etc?
  • What are your boundaries for including renewable energy? Are they restricted to on-site? If so, what are the physical on-site boundaries?
  • What energy types are being considered? Electricity, natural gas, others?
  • Do you plan to account for energy demand according to the Zero Net Energy Equivalent definition?

Choose the scale and sectors that you will be operating within:

  • Building Scale
  • District Scale

District scale ZNE differs from building scale since the net energy use operates between multiple buildings and infrastructure, rather than only one building. District scale allows for greater integration of ZNE and sustainability efforts throughout entire communities.

San Francisco Eco-Districts: The San Francisco Planning Department developed a framework for “eco-districts,” a term for neighborhoods where different community members collaborate with city leaders and utility providers to co-develop community driven innovative projects that meet sustainability goals. The eco-district structure helped the City to start planning and implementing ZNE at a district level, distributing the cost of energy production and consumption among multiple buildings.

  • Residential
    • Single-family
    • Multi-family
  • Commercial
  • Publically-owned buildings
    • Municipal
    • State
    • Federal
  • Schools
    • Public
    • Private
    • K-12
    • Community colleges and universities

Create Your Vision and Set Goals

Setting your vision and goals solidifies your jurisdiction’s commitment to ZNE efforts and starts you on the path toward implementation. Conducting a feasibility assessment can assist in this process to provide insight toward attainable goals for your community.

Local Government ZNE Vision Examples
Engage Stakeholders

Advancing ZNE policies and practices in your communities require buy-in and support from multiple stakeholder groups in order to succeed. It is important to identify and begin engaging your stakeholders early on, and to continue building trust and strengthening relationships as you develop policies, plans, and incentives. By integrating outreach, engagement, and education into your internal processes, you will have a more holistic view of how to best achieve your ZNE goals by understanding the different interests, motivations, opportunities, and barriers at play.

Key Resources

Key Strategies

  • Invite key stakeholders into the ZNE planning process early.
  • Conduct a feasibility study at the beginning of the ZNE planning process to encourage stakeholder support for ZNE implementation.
  • Have ongoing communication and collaboration between stakeholders at all stages of the process, including post-occupancy.
  • Provide fact sheets about ZNE definitions and your specific efforts online and at outreach events.
  • Conduct workshops and trainings on ZNE.
  • Host a ZNE building design competition for energy professionals and students.
  • Give tours and demonstrations of ZNE measures in operation at existing ZNE buildings.

Elected Officials and Executive Leadership

Top-down support can speed up the process for ZNE implementation by securing buy-in from internal sources and streamlining approvals. In addition to playing a critical role in advancing local policies, leadership from elected officials and department heads can also assist the ZNE implementation process by making connections with external stakeholders, securing funding for projects, and allocating necessary resources.

Key Strategies and Resources

Building Professionals

ZNE implementation and enforcement is a rapidly growing field that involves a diverse workforce for success at all stages of the process, including contractors who install major building system elements, such as HVAC, lighting, weatherization, and insulation; contractors who install solar and other renewable energy systems; energy raters and commissioners; facilities managers and building operators; and code enforcement officials. Developing expertise within the workforce around ZNE technologies and measures normalizes ZNE efforts within the building industry and expands the knowledge and skill base for more effective performance.

Key Strategies and Resources

Building Managers, Owners, and Operators

Since energy efficiency plays a large role in ZNE performance, it is critical for building managers, owners, and operators to understand how the building’s energy systems work and how to use them properly and efficiently. If possible, these individuals should be involved in the design process to secure their buy-in and ensure that they can advocate for proper energy use to occupants.

Key Strategies and Resources
  • ZNE Communications Fact Sheet for Commercial Building Operators and Owners (NBI)
  • Focus on codes and standards set by the state and your jurisdiction, and how buildings will be required to begin transitioning to ZNE.
  • Focus on cost savings due to energy efficiency and reduced operations and equipment replacement costs.
  • Focus on building resiliency and higher rates of employee retention.

Building Occupants

Building occupants include homeowners, renters, and other residential occupants; commercial and industrial business employers and employees; and public building occupants including public officials and staff, and school administrators, teachers, and students. Building occupants must understand the various energy efficient measures that they come into contact with on a daily basis to maximize ZNE performance. Occupant education and training materials should be developed and presented, which should be geared toward individual occupant types to be the most effective. A key component of occupant education is communicating a clear process for reporting malfunctioning equipment and encouraging behavior change.

Key Strategies and Resources

Schools and Academic Institutions

Schools and academic institutions offer a substantial opportunity for ZNE implementation as they can serve as a living laboratory for new technologies as well as provide student education and engagement around sustainability and its social, economic, and environmental benefits. Prop 39 created additional opportunities for engaging schools in ZNE efforts by providing up to $550 million per year to improve energy efficiency and increase clean energy in public schools and community colleges throughout the state.

Key Strategies and Resources

Real Estate Development

Realtors market ZNE residential homes and commercial buildings to potential buyers and are key for expanding consumer demand for ZNE buildings. Most local governments start by expanding ZNE measures in municipal buildings and then struggle with breaking into private sector development. Building partnerships with realtors can help overcome this barrier to achieve ambitious residential and commercial ZNE goals.

Key Strategies and Resources
  • Home Energy Score (DOE)
  • Partner with the Association of REALTORS to train and certify real estate brokers and appraisers in energy efficiency and how to market energy efficient homes.


Utilities support ZNE implementation efforts in many ways, which include providing valuable energy usage data, technical expertise, funding opportunities, and educational resources.

Key Resources

Related Programs and Opportunities

ZNE goals often overlap with the goals of other existing programs, such as LEED certifications and PACE programs. There are also many organizations working in the this space, such as New Buildings Institute and the International Living Futures Institute, as well as many other statewide and regional organizations including Build It Green, Center for Sustainable Energy, The Energy Coalition, and BayREN. Coordinating with these programs and organizations will help you leverage limited resources to maximize your impact.

Demonstrate Leadership

Local governments are uniquely positioned to demonstrate leadership through policy and by example. Setting strong policies can influence the direction that building markets across all sectors take toward energy efficiency and clean energy. Demonstrating leadership through renovation of municipal buildings to ZNE performance is also an important step in shifting the culture of building development, as public buildings such as libraries and schools have high visibility and usage.

Reach Beyond the Energy Code

There are several ways to incorporate ZNE practices into local policies — through building codes and ordinances, key planning documents such as General Plans and Climate/Energy Action Plans, permit requirements, incentive programs, and more.

Currently, Title 24 is the baseline requirement set by the CEC that requires new homes to be 24% more energy efficient and new commercial buildings to be more 30% more energy efficient. While this is a good step towards increasing energy efficiency in buildings, several jurisdictions adopted more stringent reach codes to advance their ZNE goals.

Best Practices
  • Incorporate ZNE goals into building codes, Climate Action Plans, Energy Action Plans, General Plans, and other key planning documents.
  • Develop incentive programs for building owners and developers to voluntarily implement ZNE measures.
  • Streamline permitting processes to lower the cost of ZNE buildings and increase the likelihood of Title 24 compliance.
  • Consider adopting energy efficiency or solar mandates as a step toward a more robust ZNE ordinance, as they may be easier to get adopted.
  • Incorporate ZNE language into RFPs and RFQs to build workforce experience and normalize ZNE efforts in the architecture, engineering, planning, and building professions.
Examples of Policy Leadership
  • City of Santa Monica: Adopted an ordinance that requires all new single-family and low-rise multi-family construction to be zero net energy and use 15% less energy than the 2016 CA Energy Code. The ordinance also requires that all new high-rise multi-family and nonresidential construction use 10% less energy than the 2016 CA Energy Code.
  • City of Hayward: Adopted a draft resolution to establish a ZNE policy that requires new municipal buildings, as well as significant retrofits of existing municipal buildings to be designed and constructed as ZNE buildings.
  • City of Palo Alto: Adopted a reach code that requires all new construction to perform 15% better than Title 24 requirements and all retrofits to exceed Title 24 requirements by 5% for single-family residential, 10% for multi-family residential, and 5% for nonresidential.
  • City of Lancaster: Set an ambitious goal for the city to become 100% ZNE by 2020, and was able to achieve 54% of its goal by 2014. Adopted a local ordinancerequiring builders to provide solar energy systems that produce at least 1 kWh of energy for new homes.
  • County of Santa Barbara: Adopted an Energy Efficiency Standards Policy that requires 50% of County buildings to be in compliance with the County’s ZNE Facilities Resolution by 2025 and 100% compliance by 2035. Case Study: County of Santa Barbara ZNE Resolution (CSE)
  • City of Glendale: Requires installation of radiant roof barriers in concealed attic space of all new residential construction.
  • City of Los Angeles: Mandates minimum thermal emittance and solar reflectance values for roofing materials in residential buildings.
  • City and County of San Francisco: Adopted a reach code requiring GreenPoint Rated for new low-rise residential projects, including minimum 10% less energy consumption than allowed by Title 24, Part 6. Adopted a Better Roofs Ordinance that requires roofs to have some sort of use, including green roofs, solar, or a combination.
  • City of Chula Vista: Requires new residential construction to include electrical conduits for solar and plumbing for solar water heating systems
  • Additional reach codes that exceed Title 24 requirements can be found on the CEC’s website here.

Lead by Example

Moving the municipal building stock toward ZNE showcases energy efficient technology and leading design practices, and can serve as an educational facility or training grounds for the emerging ZNE workforce.

Notable Public ZNE Buildings
  • West Berkeley Public Library: The West Berkeley Public Library is the first library in California to achieve ZNE performance. The building was renovated with ZNE measures in alignment with the City’s Climate Action Plan and corresponding energy and GHG reduction targets. Further details and a more in-depth case study can be found on this West Berkeley Public Library Case Study (NBI)
  • Watsonville Water Resources Center: The Watsonville Water Resources Center supports the City’s Water Recycling Project, which recycles water to conserve resources and provide water stability to farmers through Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The building was designed to emphasize sustainable water use due to its role with the Water Recycling Project, but has also integrated overall low resource use to function as a ZNE building as well. Further details and a more in-depth case study can be found in this report on ZNE Case Study Buildings (Energy Design Resources).
  • SMUD East Campus Operations Center: SMUD’s East Campus Operations Center was designed to be a ZNE facility that incorporates energy efficient technology and measures along with renewable energy production. While the facility has experienced challenges in operating at the ZNE level during occupancy, SMUD developed a task force to address the discrepancy from design to performance and is continuing to move toward its ZNE goal.
  • Culver City Julian Dixon Library: The library was renovated to become Los Angeles County’s first ZNE building,

Benchmarking and Data Metrics

The ZNE process does not end once a building is built or retrofitted. Benchmarking is a critical strategy to achieve ZNE – to understand the baseline energy use before retrofitting and to evaluate whether the building is performing to standard. ZNE certification requires the building to perform at the intended level for at least one year. Often times, ZNE designed, constructed, and retrofitted buildings perform worse than expected due to occupant behaviors and lack of knowledge or experience utilizing efficient technology. Benchmarking can serve another role here by educating occupants about their energy use and identifying specific places where further energy efficiency measures can be targeted.

Best Practices for Benchmarking and Defining Metrics
  • Before implementing ZNE measures, collect data from your existing building stock to determine where ZNE retrofits would be the most effective to reach your goals.
  • Determine what types of energy will be calculated in your metrics according to your ZNE definition.
  • Incorporate outcome-based energy codes that allow for better data about actual performance, adjustable tracking and reporting tools, commitment and enforcement mechanisms, and metering capabilities.
  • Collect consistent and accurate data before, during, and after any retrofits or new construction.
  • Ensure that all technologies (including energy efficient appliances, lights, and data collection meters) are working properly upon installation and consistently monitor those technologies to avoid downgrades in performance. Be flexible in implementation and operation of ZNE technologies, as buildings may not operate sufficiently as planned at first.
  • Conduct energy modeling during planning and design phases to determine what measures may be most effective given the expected occupants, building size and location, and other factors.
  • Conduct detailed and accurate monitoring and commissioning after implementation.
  • Keep your consultants on retainer for one year after the building is built or retrofitted so that they can work with you on occupant energy use and plug load management as needed.

Key Resources

Support Your Community

While many perceive funding to be the biggest hurdle for ZNE implementation, there is mounting evidence that ZNE goals can be achieved within typical construction budgets. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provides a resource for Cost Control Strategies for ZNE Buildings that includes best practices for keeping costs low throughout the ZNE process. Several strategies already discussed throughout the Hub, particularly around building an integrated task force and conducting stakeholder engagement throughout the process, can end up saving costs in the long run by streamlining design, planning, and construction phases.

Identify Funding Sources

In addition to cost reduction strategies, several funding sources are available for various activities and stages of implementation.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund

The State’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) provides funding to State agencies and programs that advance GHG mitigation efforts within transportation, energy, and natural resources. Funding allocations can be viewed here. Programs that fund clean energy and energy efficiency efforts include:

Utility Funding

Utilities can provide funding for energy efficiency measures through a variety of strategies and funding programs. Some of these strategies include:

  • On-Bill Financing:  The utility pays upfront for energy efficiency upgrades and installations and adds a charge to the participants’ utility bill until all costs are repaid.
  • Savings By Design: Savings By Design offers design assistance, Owners Incentives, Design Team Incentives, and Energy Design Resources for nonresidential, new construction projects within participating utility territories. Services begin in the project design phase and continue through construction completion.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)

PACE providers can cover upfront costs for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to residential, multifamily, and commercial buildings. The loans for upfront costs are repaid over a pre-determined term through the property tax bill. PACE providers in California include:

Renew Financial developed the PACE model and offer additional financing opportunities and support.

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Fund

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures and increase resilience to natural hazards. ZNE projects may be able to gain FEMA funding if tied to energy resilience strategies.

CPUC Funding Opportunities
  • Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC)
    The program specializes in affordable financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, supporting investments in clean energy technologies that provide benefits to the electricity ratepayers of PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE. EPIC funds clean energy research, demonstration and deployment projects that support California’s energy policy goals and promote greater electricity reliability, lower costs, and increased safety.
  • Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP)
    Provides rebate incentives to support existing, new, and emerging distributed energy resources. SGIP funds qualifying technologies include wind turbines, waste heat to power technologies, pressure reduction turbines, internal combustion engines, microturbines, gas turbines, fuel cells, and advanced energy storage systems.
  • California Solar Initiative
    Solar rebate program for customers of the investor-owned utilities. This program funds solar on existing homes, existing or new commercial, agricultural, government and non-profit buildings. This program funds both solar photovoltaics (PV), as well as other solar thermal generating technologies.
CEC Funding Opportunities
  • Energy Efficiency Financing Program
    The program offers unsecured loans of up to $3 million to public agencies to pay for energy feasibility studies and installation of energy saving measures. The interest rate is 1% for a term up to 20 years for cities, counties, special districts, public universities and colleges (except community colleges) and public care institutions. The loan requires the agency to pass a resolution to participate and to execute a promissory note with the CEC. This program funds energy efficiency, renewable energy, demand response and other energy-related projects.
  • New Solar Homes Partnership
    The partnership provides financial incentives and other support to home builders to encourage the construction of new, energy efficient solar homes.
iBank Funding Opportunities
  • Statewide Energy Efficiency Program (SWEEP)
    Program for small, medium and large-scale energy efficiency upgrades and projects for California’s public municipality, university, school, and hospital borrowers. SWEEP Projects include comprehensive efficiency improvements to new and existing facilities that save energy. The program funds advanced metering systems; energy efficiency; energy management and/or control systems; demand response programs; water conservation, wastewater management, pipeline, mining/extraction and similar end-use processes; lighting and control systems; Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC); building envelope improvements; occupant plug load management systems; other electrical load reduction; and thermal and electric energy storage.
  • Exempt Facility Bonds
    Tax-exempt financing for projects that are government-owned or consist of private improvements within publicly-owned facilities, such as private airline improvements at publicly-owned airports. These bonds fund airports, docks and wharves, mass commuting facilities, facilities for the furnishing of water, sewage facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, facilities for the furnishing of local electric energy or gas, local district heating or cooling facilities, qualified hazardous waste facilities, high-speed intercity rail facilities, environmental enhancements of hydro-electric generating facilities, and qualified public educational facilities.
  • Public Agency Revenue Bonds (PARBs)
    Bond financing for state and local government agencies to expand  construction of transportation/transit (airports, ports), water/wastewater system, power generation/transmission system, sewer system, schools, etc.

Sustainable Energy Bond Program
Participating public agencies and nonprofit organizations have the ability to contract with a pre-qualified Energy Service Company to complete energy and water conservation measures. The program participants will receive substantial utility cost savings including a contractual guarantee sufficient to cover the full cost of all retrofit work. The program includes street lighting, building lighting, pumps, HVAC, system controls, boilers, chillers, ducting, windows, partial roofing, toilets, and others.

Fannie Mae Green Financing
Offers three loan programs: Green Rewards, Green Building Certification Pricing Break, and Green Preservation Plus to fund various energy and water conservation upgrades for buildings.

M-Core Financing
Provides loans for energy efficiency retrofits, sustainable energy projects, and equipment for multi-family housing and businesses. A municipal leasing program also provides funding for schools and public housing authorities.

Create Funding Opportunities

Local governments can further support local communities by creating funding opportunities to advance ZNE efforts. Innovative strategies to broaden your funding toolkit include:

  • Energy Efficiency Reserve FundAn Energy Efficiency Reserve Fund is a Loan Loss Reserve credit enhancement strategy that can encourage private lenders and investors to invest in unfamiliar markets, such as emerging ZNE buildings. Local governments can incentivize these lenders by providing partial risk coverage.
  • Revolving Loan Fund
    A special account into which money is deposited for expenditure without regard to fiscal-year limitations.
  • Community Carbon Fund
    This type of fund accepts money from local donors who are interested in offsetting their carbon emissions to go toward local projects.
  • Regional Energy Networks
    • The Energy Network Energy Project Lease Financing
      Low-interest loan to public agencies from a private lender. Minimum loan is $250,000, but multiple projects can be bundled under a single loan. This program funds energy efficiency, water conservation, renewable energy projects or other capital improvements
    • Home Upgrade – BayREN
Examples of Support for Communities
  • City and County of San Francisco: Provides a carbon fund for a range of local projects that offset greenhouse gas emissions close to where they are created. Depending on how much the donor wants to mitigate, the investment can be represented by an entire project, or combined with others to proportionally supply a project.
  • City of Watsonville Carbon Fund Program: The local carbon fund program utilizes a unique approach to leverage a new carbon impact fee and rebate structure to incentivize energy-efficient new construction and retrofits above and beyond California state energy code (Title 24) requirements to support statewide zero net energy goals.

Develop and Offer Incentives

Providing incentives and reducing barriers to ZNE implementation is another tool for local governments when pursuing ZNE goals, which can be effective for bringing forward development proposals that include ZNE measures.

Best Practices and Examples for Incentive Programs
  • Offer incentives to developers if ZNE measures are incorporated, such as streamlined permitting, fee waivers, or low cost loans.
  • Develop a recognition program for ZNE projects.
  • Provide competitions, such as the Architecture at Zero Competition (PG&E)
  • City of Chula Vista: Hired a full time “code coach” to provide guidance to permit applicants and building developers on current state building and energy codes, and to educate them about ZNE.

Smart Build Santa Barbara (SB2): Santa Barbara County’s incentive program encourages residents and business owners to voluntarily make their buildings energy efficient. The program offers free advice from experts to interested community members and provides incentives for meeting the program’s criteria. The program is split into two tiers: “Ultra Low Energy Verified,” which requires new and existing buildings to exceed Title 24 standards by 30%, and “Zero Net Energy Designed,” which requires new and existing buildings to exceed Title 24 standards by 40% and generate 100% of its energy using on-site renewable sources.

Case Study: San Mateo County

Create A Vision

In response to California’s statewide ZNE goals, San Mateo County Energy Watch (SMCEW) took initiative to draft a Zero Energy Strategic Plan to move San Mateo County and municipalities within the County toward ZNE planning, policy, and building targets. While not yet formally adopted by the County, the County used the Strategic Plan as a guideline in their development of a draft ZNE Plan.

Building a Team/Engaging Internal Stakeholders

Internal Workshop to Develop Goals and Policies

SMCEW received funding from the CPUC and technical support from the New Buildings Institute on behalf of San Mateo County to conduct a workshop for county employees to coordinate and create consensus around ZNE goals and priorities within the county. The workshop included participation from the following departments: Building, Planning, Public Works, the Office of Sustainability, and the Office of Finance and Budgets. The goals of the workshop included:

  • Developing a draft plan,
  • Discussing policy and implementation gaps and opportunities,
  • Identifying stakeholders and developing a communications plan,
  • Developing a plan for alignment of policy and process gaps, and
  • Discussing the role of codes and standards.

The County of San Mateo Draft ZNE Plan was a direct result of this workshop, and identified the following key next steps and targets for the County’s internal ZNE implementation efforts:

  • Assessing a portfolio of existing buildings,
  • Conducting pilot projects for construction of one new ZNE building by 2020 and one retrofit ZNE project by 2023,
  • Integrating ZNE requirements into RFPs and RFQs,
  • Developing project requirements for ZNE developers, and
  • Establishing a ZNE policy for specific building types.

The agenda from the internal workshop is available here.

Best Practices for Building a Team

SMCEW developed two short videos that highlight best practices for building an efficient team that involves building professionals across every stage of the process from design to construction: Zero Energy: The Future of Building and Zero Energy for Building Professionals.

Set Your ZNE Definition and Scale

Going into the internal workshop, SMCEW created a ZNE definition to create context and scope in their Draft ZNE Plan. Their definition is as follows:

  • Either ZNE (strongly encouraged), or, if ZNE is not feasible, Zero Energy Ready. If Zero Energy Ready, must be able to demonstrate measures taken to address a high performance building and have accommodations for renewables in the future.
  • Renewables cover all site energy consumed, not source.
  • Does not allow for renewable energy certificates to count as renewable energy generated.
  • Is able to accurately report energy usage/generation data.
  • Energy purchased from a Community Choice Energy (CCE or CCA) source or other renewable utility portfolio does not count as renewable energy generated. Building must still have on site renewable generation or plan to implement it in the future.
  • Building does NOT consume natural gas.

Create Your Vision and Set Goals

The two main goals of SMCEW’s Strategic Plan are to provide technical support and resources to cities and to facilitate workforce development around ZNE construction. Specifically, SMCEW developed the following commitments to move toward those goals:

  • Support municipalities by developing ZNE Action Plan and policy templates
  • Nurture early adopters and influence developing projects
  • Train professionals about ZNE buildings
  • Provide training and informational materials to building departments and planning commissions

Identify and Engage Key Stakeholders

Internal Stakeholder Engagement

SMCEW was able to recruit champions within internal departments to obtain buy-in from department directors and managers around their Strategic Plan. These champions were willing to attend meetings with SMCEW prior to the internal workshop to better understand what ZNE meant for them, which allowed them to successfully advocate for their department’s involvement in ZNE efforts.

External Stakeholder Engagement

SMCEW took initiative to offer a series of workshops and webinars in May of 2015 to educate and engage building professionals, homeowners, and real estate professionals around ZNE best practices, technologies and implementation approaches, market trends, and technical strategies. These events built upon SMCEW’s Strategic Plan goal of facilitating workforce development.

SMCEW aims to better engage the real estate sector to promote ZNE development on the private sector side. Through a grant from the Clean Coalition’s Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC), SMCEW is working with developers to create lease language templates targeting the split-incentive between landlords and tenants for commercial ZNE development.

Demonstrate Leadership

Reach Beyond the Energy Code

SMCEW set two main goals as part of the Strategic Plan:

  1. 50% of all new public buildings built to ZNE in 2025
  2. 50% of all new commercial buildings built to ZNE in 2025

These goals were created to provide a step towards the State’s goal of all new and 50% of existing state-owned public buildings to be ZNE by 2025, and all new commercial construction and 50% of existing commercial buildings to be ZNE by 2030.

Lead By Example

While the State did not specifically address local government public buildings as part of the Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan Goals, SMCEW took their goals a step further to have the County and municipalities within the County lead by example in the public sector, which was formalized by the goal of having 50% of all new public buildings be built to ZNE  in 2025.

Incorporating ZNE Language into RFPs

SMCEW outlined a policy that requires ZNE practices and lifecycle cost analysis to be incorporated into RFPs for all new construction projects by 2018. As part of this, SMCEW hopes to include a checklist to guide developers and project managers toward specific ZNE measures that address life-cycle costs and operations rather than upfront costs.

SMCEW worked with the Bay Area Regional Energy network (BayREN) and consultant DNV-GL to create RFP and Owner’s Project Requirement (OPR) template language for local governments to reference and utilize in their own ZNE policies. The Municipal Resources and Templates packet can be accessed here.

By mimicking an example by OPR that includes ZNE for project requirements, the county would incorporate this into the county’s process for any capital projects. The county emphasizes an integrated design process for ZNE that includes the desired team makeup to be a commissioning agent and energy modeler.

Targeting Municipal Buildings for ZNE Pilots

SMCEW is in the process of identifying current or upcoming municipal projects to implement ZNE design and measures.

Benchmarking and Data Metrics

SMCEW is looking to establish a ZNE policy for specific building types, which would allow for different energy use intensity targets based on the type of building rather than one set of targets for all building types regardless of use and occupancy. This policy will be included in the County of San Mateo’s Sustainable Building Policy that integrates occupancy, water, and energy.

Key Takeaways and Lessons Learned

The key takeaway from SMCEW’s process was that involving different internal departments from the beginning was critical to gaining buy-in and moving policies forward. Through the internal workshop, cross-departmental staff were able to identify challenges and synergistic opportunities before issues could arise, optimizing their efforts and capacities. Holding smaller pre-meetings with key departmental staff to go over ZNE concepts and value statements in advance of the workshop helped maintain buy-in and streamline productivity during the meeting.