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California's First Zero Net Energy Community Is a Model for Future Living
In a new effort to slash energy consumption and carbon emissions, southern California's North Fontana area will be home to the state's first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) community consisting of at least 20 new highly efficient homes.
The community, called Sierra Crest, is currently in development and is a project led by the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), as well as homebuilders Meritage Homes, BIRAenergy, Itron, Southern California Edison and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
About 41 percent of the country's total energy consumption comes from residential and commercial buildings, which is why net-zero buildings are brilliant—they produce at least as much energy as it uses (if not much more).
California's newest ZNE homes, designed by 2015 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Meritage Homes, will feature solar panels, HVAC systems, water heating equipment, heat pumps and integrated fresh air ventilation. The dwellings will also have spray foam insulation, highly insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting, smart chargers and smart appliances. These homes will be connected to the grid to help absorb surplus solar energy generated by the panels during the day and also provide power if the homes run out of juice.
It's estimated that all these bells and whistles will curb energy use by as much as 60 percent compared to a house built to the latest California Energy Code.
California set a "Big Bold Goal" in 2008 that called for all new houses in the state to be ZNE by 2020. Additionally, by 2030, the state wants all new commercial construction to be ZNE and 50 percent of existing commercial buildings to be retrofit to ZNE.
Over the next several years, the project team will study how these pilot houses and their advanced technologies can be integrated into the central utility's electric system, and investigate these homes' scalability and economic feasibility across the state.
“There are several ZNE homes throughout California, but none clustered at one community,” CR Herro, vice president of environmental affairs at Meritage Homes told Renewable Energy World. “This community not only allows the value of operation cost reduction to the homeowners, but provides much needed data to the utilities about [kilowatt] production and demand at each home, and cumulatively at the transformer level to provide needed data to design service for community level Zero Energy as California building code progresses toward this standard.”
The houses, which range from 1,936 square feet to 2,915 square feet, have a starting price around the high $300,000, Renewable Energy World reported. It's said that six of these homes will be ready for purchase by this summer.
"This project represents an ideal site and an ideal team to evaluate the effectiveness of energy efficient housing, equipment and appliances," said Ram Narayanamurthy, EPRI project manager. "The data that are collected will likely guide future developments of zero net energy housing in California and elsewhere and how they integrate into the electric system."
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.