Net zero homes only 5 years away in California

The New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan, written by the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission, provides the housing market in California with the drivers for all new houses to be zero net energy (ZNE) within 5 years. It provides a foundation for the development of a robust and sustainable ZNE market for new homes, supports future ZNE codes and standards and is a living document intended to be updated to address changes in technology and California’s needs. The Action Plan is focused on single family and low rise (three stories or less) as well as low and middle income housing.


The six guiding principles of the Action plan are as follows:

  • market driven

In order to realise a mainstream ZNE building future, the industry will be supported by empowering key actors through appropriate policies, regulations, incentives and effective program design. In combination these will drive innovation, additional projects, workforce development, marketing and awareness

  • Flexible

The Action Plan will be a living document that will evolve as business models, rate structures, construction techniques, demand and consumer needs evolve in the future

  • Leverage

Existing programs, projects and information regarding techniques, training, incentives and industry practices around ZNE are critical resources and need to be leveraged to achieve the goals of the Action Plan

  • Consistent

The Action Plan supports those strategies that achieve the highest consistency in terms of policy, regulations and incentives to reach California’s goals.

  • Measureable

In order for consumers, legislators, utilities, financial markets and the industry as a whole to support ZNE long term, it is essential to quantify its impacts, costs and value

  • Multiple paths

As California’s housing stock is diverse and the trends are highlighting more compact land use scenarios, multifamily housing and community scale renewables, ZNE building policies and programs must support multiple paths and approaches.


ZNE homes produce as much energy as they consume each year as a result of renewable sources (eg. solar panels and energy efficiency measures). The Climate Group States and Regions Director Libby Ferguson stated that once again California has proved commitment to the national green economy and to encouraging rapid technology uptake in the construction sector. The first step was to spread awareness of the benefits of ZNE housing, given that the majority of new home buyers and builders are unaware of the potential energy savings that can be achieved. The second step was to ensure that the available technical tools are effective, create appropriate finance mechanisms to facilitate the affordability of ZNE housing and to continue the development of a clear ZNE policy framework.

California also has plans to make all new non-residential buildings ZNE from 2030 and double the efficiency of existing buildings to reduce heating fuel emissions by 2030. California is also aiming to source half of its energy from renewables by the same year which will make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. It is also one of the 12 states and provinces that has signed the Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding, which demonstrates each Government’s will to keep global warming below the previously agreed safe threshold of 2°C.

See more information here

See the New Residential ZNE Action Plan here



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