September 16, 2016


The Quest for Home Utility Bills of...Zero (GABRIEL KAHN, Sept. 13, 2016, WSJ)

The KB Home development here looks like any other middle-class subdivision in Southern California--rows of stucco houses with tiled roofs and two-car garages--except for the sticker on the entryway of one of its showcase units.

The sticker displays the average monthly cost to heat and cool the home and run the appliances: $119, compared with $252 for a standard-built home of similar size. If an owner adds solar panels, the monthly bill would drop to near zero. [...]

By 2020, the California Energy Commission plans to require every new residential building to meet a code called "zero net energy." Under ZNE, over the course of a year a new house should consume no more energy than it generates from sources such as rooftop solar panels.

The state is still writing the rules that will define exactly how builders are supposed to meet the goal, and some warn the plan is so ambitious that regulators will be forced to roll back deadlines. But the Energy Commission insists it is sticking to its timetable. By 2030, the mandate is set to expand to all new commercial buildings as well.

The commission has been trying to nudge home builders and makers of everything from windows to thermostats toward these goals for years. When the standards do take effect, they will unleash a ripple effect across the construction industry, building-supply sector, even the providers of mortgages and home insurance.
"We are sending a market signal, and we've been sending it since the mid-2000s," says commission member Andrew McAllister. "Not that they don't grumble about it."

California's determination to wring efficiency from building design is a sign of how energy policy has moved to new fronts beyond drilling rights, pipelines and power generation. While building-efficiency measures here date to the 1970s, they have taken on greater urgency since Gov. Jerry Brown recently ratcheted up the state's policies designed to address climate change: By 2050 California aims to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 80% below the levels it produced in 1990.

Posted by at September 16, 2016 6:56 PM