A zero net energy (ZNE) building is a home or commercial building that on average produces as much energy as it uses, achieved through energy efficiency and renewable technologies. The ZNE concept has captured the imagination of the building design and clean energy communities. Now, policymakers, businesses, and a broader segment of the general public are showing an increased interest in ZNE as a means to reduce building operating costs and environmental impact while addressing energy supply challenges.
The need for innovative ways to reduce residential energy use is growing. States are setting increasingly aggressive energy savings targets for utilities and program administrators, as well as longer-term energy reduction goals that call for even greater savings. In California, for example, their goal calls for a 40% reduction in existing homes’ energy use by 2020.
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Industrialized nations worldwide must profoundly change their energy supply and demand habits, in part to better use available resources and maintain prosperity, but also to reduce carbon emissions and avoid negative consequences of climate change. Recognizing this need, the Obama administration recently set a 2050 goal of reducing U.S. CO2 emissions by 83% relative to 2005 levels. Improving how we produce and distribute energy is a necessary step toward achieving this goal, but we must also reduce the energy consumed by our building, industry, and transportation sectors.