Helping California Meet Goals for Zero Net Energy Homes by 2020

A Zero Net Energy (ZNE) home or building is one whose annual energy consumption is no greater than its annual energy generation. The state of California wants all new residential construction to meet ZNE standards by 2020 and all new commercial buildings to meet ZNE standards by 2030, along with 50% of existing commercial floor space. It's part of the state's multi-faceted battle plan against greenhouse gas emissions.

Our utility, Southern California Edison, is helping to build a path to meeting this ambitious goal through demonstration projects that test ZNE feasibility on a mass scale and gauge ZNE’s impact on the utility distribution grid.

The Utility Role in Zero Net Energy Building Codes

Our utility is helping shape the development of California's ZNE building codes by providing technical, engineering and planning support, as well as electricity-usage monitoring, to ZNE projects. Our expertise enables us to ensure that all the renewable energy and energy-efficiency components work together to deliver ZNE-level performance.

Since the development of the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan in 2008, SCE and the state’s other investor-owned utilities have taken part in numerous ZNE activities, from complying with ZNE direction, to supporting market development, to learning how to better integrate ZNE into our business operations.

Our utility’s ZNE projects include single-family homes, residential communities, multi-family developments, and school and community college buildings. 

Zero Net Energy & Distributed Generation

Because all ZNE homes and buildings connect to the electrical grid and use renewable energy, the adoption of ZNE building standards will also promote Distributed Generation (DG). The impacts of DG associated with ZNE will need to be understood and managed to insure SCE’s grid continues to operate in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner.

More about Edison & distributed generation

A ZNE Single-Family Home in Ontario, Calif.

In 2013, our utility partnered with an industry-leading homebuilder to design and construct a demonstration showcase home. This lovely three bedroom, two bath home has 2,228 square feet on two stories, and it's a model of smart energy practices. The objectives were to demonstrate that ZNE homes can be constructed using prevalent building practices and sold at a reasonable incremental cost, and to identify and overcome market barriers, including demonstrating that the cost of ZNE components can be more than offset by the home's reduced energy costs.

Testing ZNE Effectiveness at Our Irvine Smart Grid Demonstration

In the University Hills neighborhood of Irvine, Calif., our utility’s Irvine Smart Grid Demonstration includes a study that compares homes with ZNE technologies to homes without such technologies.

Homes on one block were outfitted with a full suite of ZNE technologies: energy efficiency upgrades, demand response-capable home area networks, energy storage units, electric vehicle chargers, and solar photovoltaic panels. Homes on two adjacent blocks were outfitted with only some of these technologies, and in a control group on a fourth block, homes were not given any ZNE features.

Field experiments began on July 1, 2013, and concluded June 30, 2015. The project is in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

A ZNE Residential Community in Fontana, Calif.

Ready to buy a zero net energy home? Head to Fontana, Calif., where 20 homes in the state’s first Zero Net Energy residential community went on the market on Earth Day, 2015. Located in the Sierra Crest development of this San Bernardino County town, the homes are projected to use 60% less energy than a comparable home built to current code.

This project is a partnership of our utility, the Electric Power Research Institute, the California Public Utilities Commission, and private companies, including one of the nation’s largest home builders. Our utility will use this project to evaluate impacts associated with large-scale introductions of ZNE homes into the electric grid. The evaluation is expected to run from January 2016 to January 2017.

Zero Net Energy Home

Schools & Colleges: Zero Net Energy Tested on Campus

Can California schools produce enough electricity to meet their own needs? Our utility and other California utilities are participating in a Zero Net Energy proof-of-concept pilot to find out. In this pilot, as many as 18 schools and community colleges are being outfitted with ZNE technologies.

After the pilot concludes in 2019, utilities will be able to apply for approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to transition the project into an ongoing utility program.

Transforming Multi-Family Housing in Lancaster, Calif., to be ZNE

Are energy-smart ZNE technologies a good investment in low-income residential communities? Our utility, Southern California Edison, is teaming with several other companies to demonstrate that ZNE retrofits can be practical to install, replicable in quality, and successful in delivering energy savings and positive economic impacts for both property owners and residents. Retrofitting construction on 30 multi-family units in Lancaster, Calif., began in May 2015.

Looking for a Letter of Support or Commitment?

Our utility, Southern California Edison, collaborates with many organizations to support innovation in the areas of renewable sources of energy, grid optimization, and energy storage. If you are working on a project of this nature and need a letter of support or commitment for a California Energy Commission EPIC proposal, DOE or other funding source proposal, we may be able to help.

Submit a request form at