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About the ZNE Action Bulletin

In response to requests for more information on news and events in the zero net energy (ZNE) buildings arena, New Buildings Institute (NBI),

in partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), developed this ZNE Action Bulletin to keep readers informed of new trainings, workshops, innovative buildings and developments with key strategic efforts in policy and planning.
Forest Service  center receives Presidential Award

The Forest Service's Technology and Development Center received the White House's 2013 GreenGov Presidential Award and the U.S. Department of Energy's 2013Federal Energy and Water Management Award for its net zero energy facility project in San Dimas, Calif. This is the first facility of its kind in the Department of Agriculture.



"We are honored to receive the GreenGov Award, and the Federal Energy and Water Management awards for the Technology and Development Center as the first net zero green facility exemplifying leadership in energy conservation," said Emilee Blount, the Forest Service's national director of Engineering, Technology and Geospatial Services.


The Technology and Development Center made several changes to its facility, including replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the administration building and installing 1,288 solar panels on 1.5 acres to produce up to 600,000 kilowatt hours of energy each year. The center produces enough energy to provide monetary credits with local utility company Southern California Edison (SCE), saving the government $100,000 annually and paying for itself within 10 years.   

Key Resources

ZNE Communications Toolkit


CPUC Residential ZNE Website











Past ZNE Action Bulletins

About Energy Upgrade California

Energy Upgrade California™ is a state initiative to educate residents and small business consumers about energy management. The initiative helps Californians take action to save energy and conserve natural resources, reduce demand on the electricity grid, and make informed energy management choices at home and at work. It is supported by an alliance of the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, utilities, regional energy networks, local governments, businesses, and nonprofits to help communities meet state and local energy and climate action goals. Funding comes from investor-owned utility customers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. 2013 Energy Upgrade California. Trademarks are property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

  Issue: 13
Spring 2014   


   J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, CA

Photo Credit: Stephen Whalen Photography  

 News-HighlightsNews & Highlights 
J. Craig Venter Institute sets sights on becoming first ZNE lab

The J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI) recently celebrated completion of construction on its sustainable, zero-net energy (ZNE) building located on the campus of University of California, San Diego. The three-story, 45,000-square-foot building overlooking the Pacific Ocean features exposed architectural concrete panels, Spanish cedar wood siding, a wood-framed window curtain wall and storefront system, metal panels and an expansive photovoltaic array.

The new facility, which targets zero-net energy performance, represents the most ambitious sustainably designed biological research laboratory project ever built and is expected to earn LEED Platinum Certification. It was designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF) and constructed by McCarthy.

"Our new facility was built not only to advance genomic research, but to showcase how science can be compatible with the best of environmentally sustainable practices," said JCVI Founder and CEO J. Craig Venter, Ph.D.

The project is integral to JCVI's quest to perform the science needed to solve critical environmental and human health challenges. JCVI currently has about 90 employees but is designed to house approximately 125 scientists and staff.

View the full press release 

Learn more about sustainable features 

Watch a video of the construction 

View more photos   

Lancaster, Sebastopol lead with solar energy mandates


Two cities in California have moved forward with requirements for new, single-family homes to be outfitted with renewable, solar power. The cities' mayors--Rex Parris of Lancaster and Michael Kyes of Sebastopol--are driving the rules and say climate change as the reason why. Lancaster, located in northeast Los Angeles County and home to 59,000 residents, was the first to pass a solar mandate last year that went into effect January 1, 2014. The law requires at least 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar capacity be allocated to each new home either onsite or through a distributed generation resource located in the subdivision.  


"Requiring solar power assets for new residential construction in the coming years will bring Lancaster one huge step closer to becoming the Alternative Energy Capital of the World, while providing new homeowners with earth-friendly and cost-effective benefits," said Parris.


The smaller city of Sebastopol lies about an hour north of San Francisco with a population of roughly 7,300. A mandate enacted there in 2013 requires all newly built homes--commercial buildings and major residential remodels/additions, too --must be equipped with solar systems that provide two watts of photovoltaic-derived power per square foot of insulated building area. Homes and businesses constructed in areas where solar isn't possible must either pay a fee or look into other means of alternative energy.


More on Lancaster's solar requirement
More on Sebastopol's solar requirement


 Research-ReportsResearch & Reports 
Study shows ZNE and ultra-efficient buildings gain ground
Growth in numbers, locations, types and sizes all mark progress on the state of commercial zero net energy (ZNE) buildings, according to a recent report from New Buildings Institute (NBI). The report finds the number of buildings achieving or pursuing ZNE across North America has more than doubled since the last study was released in 2012.

ZNE buildings are defined as ultra-efficient and generate as much power from onsite renewable energy sources as they consume in a year. ZNE verification is based on review of one year of measured energy data including building energy consumption and renewable energy production, or other valid documentation from a third-party entity.

The NBI report identifies 33 ZNE-verified projects including 32 buildings and one district (a group of buildings). An additional 127 projects were found to be working toward ZNE but did not yet have a full year of energy use to verify ZNE performance. Another 53 buildings had verified levels of efficiency comparable to zero net energy performance, but not sufficient onsite renewable generation.

 Policy-PlanPolicy & Planning      

New IEPR lays out next steps for ZNE policies in California 

California's new 2013 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) is now available at The report looks at a variety of energy issues facing the state today and reviews guiding policies on energy efficiency, demand response and renewable and distributed generation for energy production.  It makes several recommendations related to California' Zero-new energy goals, including increasing the efficiency of new buildings by 20% to 30% each code cycle as a critical part of the path to ZNE buildings.

One recommended change is develop a way to define 'development entitlements' for renewable energy which recognizes that not all building sites will be able to install sufficient renewables on the building site due to shading, building configuration or other site restrictions.  This will be an important development to enable the energy code to reasonably address zero net energy for a wide variety of building types and site conditions.


CARB sees potential for GHG reductions from ZNE buildings

Current and future ZNE efforts were referenced in the California Air Resources Board (ARB) Proposed Update from February 2014. The update notes that "Achieving the State's zero net energy (ZNE) building goals is an important effort under way to assist with achieving climate targets."

ARB discussed building upon the recent ZNE policies and goals adopted by the CPUC and CEC, and supporting the development of statewide ZNE programs.  They proposed zero net carbon buildings as the next generation of buildings that could contribute significantly to achieving long-term GHG emission goals. 

The report update notes that the state will be developing new emission reduction programs for state buildings, schools, homes and commercial buildings, and that it will be essential to expand upon the energy sector zero net energy building success. Read the Report Update

Ed-TrainEducation & Events
Statewide Energy Efficiency Best Practices Forum
June 18-19, San Diego, CA

The day-long forum on June 19 (with pre-meeting events on June 18) will feature updates from key state agencies and highlight innovative local energy and climate change programs on topics such as zero net energy, climate action plan implementation, the water energy nexus, business outreach and engagement, financing, working with our state partners and climate adaptation in the energy sector. Learn more or register

Event Recap: 2014 Green Schools National Conference
March 27-29, Sacramento, CA

Educators, students, policymakers and  other school stakeholders gathered for this event, which featured a special session on ZNE schools. The "Moving Toward Net-Zero Energy Schools" session was led by former California Public Utilities Commissioner Dian Grueneich and explored the potential for ZNE schools to achieve exemplary energy efficiency as well as create healthy, sustainable learning environments.

Live and On-Demand Webinars

On Demand: Pursuit of net zero energy: the Walgreens experience, March 26, 2014

Additional on-demand webinars hosted by New Buildings Institute (NBI) are  available on a variety of topics at
  Early-AdopterZNE Early Adopters Network
ZNE Tour and Workshop #3: Developing Your ZNE Plan 
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | 10:00 am- 5:00 pm, SMUD Rubicon Room, 6301 S St., Sacramento, CA, 95817   See Agenda 


This free training will help public sector leaders advance their zero net energy (ZNE) building knowledge, plans and policies and provide strategies for communication, planning, design, and financing. A tour of SMUD's ZNE facility will also be offered. Participants will:

  • learn about ZNE buildings and market trends,
  • gain valuable tools and resources for developing zero net energy plans and policy,
  • hear case studies of new ZNE public projects,
  • tour the new Sacramento Municipal Utility District ZNE Operations Center, and
  • connect and share lessons learned with other public sector ZNE leaders.

You are not required to have participated in previous workshops to attend. The meeting is being offered by California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Department of General Services (DGS), New Buildings Institute (NBI), and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).


Who should attend: Staff from local governments, state agencies, K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, utilities and design teams of ZNE public buildings.


About the ZNE Early Adopters Leadership Network:

Visit to learn more about the ZNE Early Adopters Network, past events, and links to training materials and presentations from the first two workshops.


Can't attend? Join us via webinar!
The morning program is available via webinar. To register, visit:

Questions? Contact Heather Flint Chatto
, program manager at New Buildings Institute.
 AnnounceNotes & Briefs
Emerging technologies hold the key to optimized energy performance in buildings. To share research and upcoming events, California's Emerging Technology Coordinating Council (ETCC) has developed ETCC Insights, a newsletter on new technology applications and other timely information on energy efficiency and demand response. Sign up

Two recent events featured examples of ZNE building projects. Pacific Gas & Electric hosted a March event at the Brower Center where several residential projects were highlighted. In addition, the Honda Smart Home at UC Davis was featured during an Emerging Technologies Demonstration Showcase in early May. The Honda Smart Home is a showcase for environmental innovation, demonstrating zero-carbon living and personal mobility.

View the residential case studies  (see Brower Center link)
Read more about the Honda Smart Home
Please sign up to join our ZNE Bulletin mailing list, and  to others you think would be interested.
We look forward to hearing about your ZNE efforts. If you want to get the word out on related upcoming ZNE events, new research, buildings or other ZNE Action Plan news, please send info to Connie Umphress at

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