Zero Energy Communities

Zero Energy Communities are communities that have committed to moving to net zero – producing as much energy as the community consumes. Ed Mazria of Architecture 2030 describes his blueprint for a Zero Energy World in this video. Below is a description of what is happening in several cities in North America who are aspiring to become Zero Net Cities.

Lancaster, California, led by Republican Mayor Rex Parris, is the best example of an aspiring Zero Energy Community. A 2013 New York Times article describes Mayor Rex Parris and his effort to make Lancaster the first net zero community in the country.

In the last 4 years, Lancaster has:

  • Created a public-private partnership with Solar City which enables local residents and businesses to install solar energy systems at lower cost
  • Changed its solar permitting approval process so it is now performed over-the-counter with little or no waiting
  • Required that new single-family homes built in Lancaster after January 1, 2014 have a minimum of 1 kWh of solar PV collectors.
  • Installed solar energy systems on six municipal facilities throughout the City that generate 1.5 MW of renewable energy and is projected to save taxpayers approximately $6 million over 15 years
  • Installed the same system in 25 elementary schools, which saved $350,000 the first year and will generate estimated revenue of $20 million to the City over the life of the project.
  • Got China-based technology company Build Your Dreams (BYD) to partner with KB Home to create an affordable solar energy housing community. This partnership brought BYD’s advanced battery technology and solar collectors to 200 homes so far in Lancaster. These homes can store the energy they produce for use during nighttime hours or power outages.
  • Recruited solar developers to build several solar electrical generating plants in Lancaster, bringing jobs

Lancaster produces about 33% of all its energy needs with the goal of producing 100% in 2 or 3 more years.

Montpelier, Vermont aims to become the first net zero energy capital city in the country. Their effort is called “Net Zero Montpelier”. Their initial projects include: The power company installing electrical vehicle charging stations; Efficiency Vermont creating a community drive to help residents and businesses to set goals and take actions on energy efficiency with the goal of reaching Net Zero Ready on average in all homes and businesses; Efficiency Vermont and the City developing a road map for getting to zero for all municipal facilities, including sewer and water, and schools; and Vermont Power be setting up a solar tracking farm as part of a group net metering project for non-profits.

Cambridge, Massachusetts has set up a Net Zero Task Force to explore the possibilities for Cambridge moving towards becoming a net zero energy community. This Task Force was set up because a citizens group created a petition for all new construction in Cambridge to become net zero and then flooded the Planning Board and City Council meetings with advocates for Net Zero. The city’s response was to set up this independent task force that includes leaders in the field of energy conservation and renewables, and then supported it with paid consultants.

Massachusetts has several small zero energy neighborhoods, both in the ground and in planning stages, developed by Transformations, Inc, a developer and builder that focuses on zero energy homes, solar electric installations and and small zero energy communities in Townsend, Princeton, Devens, Harvard, Roxbury, Northampton and Littleton.

Bend, Oregon has a new citizens group, called Moving Towards a Carbon Neutral Bend, which just formed to explore how Bend can move towards carbon neutrality. Bend will be joining Georgetown University’s Energy Prize competition for reducing energy consumption in small cities, which will be an important first step towards moving carbon neutral.

Portland, Oregon will be the site of a small planned Zero Net Energy Community conceived by Earth Energy Habitats.  The community will harvest its own water, provide all of its energy needs, compost all kitchen scraps and raise its own vegetables.

Bloomfield, Iowa is embarking on a path to be energy-independent community. With help from the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Electricity Innovation Lab, Bloomfield identified that they can achieve net-zero, grid electric usage through energy conservation measures, distributed renewable energy production, and supplemental generation for peak shaving.

Copenhagen, Denmark has made a very ambitious commitment to make Copenhagen carbon neutral by 2025. With wind power making up 33% of Denmark’s energy supply, the country already features plenty of wind turbines. By 2020, the windswept country plans to get 50% of its energy from wind power.

Vancouver, B.C. has created a Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Examples of their measurable objectives for their goals for 2020 include: reduce carbon emissions to 33% below 2007 levels, even as the city grows steadily; double the number of green jobs; require all buildings built after 2020 to be carbon neutral (its in the code); reduce green house gas emissions and energy use in existing buildings by 20% from 2007 levels; 50% of all trips will be by foot, bike or public transport; reduce solid waste to landfills by 50%; make sure everyone lives within 5 minute walk to a park or greenway; plant 150,000 trees. They also have clean air, clean water and local food goals.

Is your community moving towards becoming a Zero Energy Community?

If so, please email information on your city’s efforts and we will post them here.

[email protected]

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