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.

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