San Diego, California - The California Energy Commission approved six grants today focused on energy efficiency with $8 million awarded for technologies and measures designed to achieve zero net energy (ZNE) in new affordable housing and multifamily and commercial buildings. ZNE homes generate as much energy as they consume.

The grants focus on technologies and strategies that show innovative energy efficiency to achieve whole building performance that will help the state achieve its energy goals:

  • Gas Technology Institute - Received a grant to develop and test advanced energy efficiency packages in new affordable housing communities in Stockton. The project will be conducted with Habitat for Humanity and lessons learned will be shared with the building industry to help increase adoption of ZNE homes.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - Received a grant to examine the benefits of all electric ZNE homes as compared to ZNE homes that use both gas and electricity. The analysis will provide information to enable better understanding of costs and benefits associated with each approach. The laboratory also received a grant to develop and evaluate cost-effective retrofits of small commercial buildings. The project includes pilot testing at a multi-story small commercial office building in San Francisco.
  • University of California, Davis - Received three grants for projects to maximize energy efficiency in homes, multifamily dwellings and commercial buildings. The UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center will refine and evaluate an advanced building control system to maximize energy savings in existing commercial buildings. The aim is to reduce electricity use by up to 30 percent. The UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center will test innovative retrofit measures that reduce air conditioning costs for homeowners. The university will help develop EnergyPlus simulations and models to identify cost effective energy efficiency measures in multifamily and commercial buildings for achieving ZNE goals.

Projects are funded through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC), which develops and brings to market technologies that support California’s energy policy goals.

Also today, the Energy Commission approved loans for solar systems and revised guidelines for school energy projects:

  • The County of Sonoma received a nearly $500,000 loan to install solar photovoltaic panels at a fleet operations facility. The 93-kilowatt system is expected to save the county almost $25,000 in utility costs annually. The Woodlake Unified School District in Tulare County received a $1 million loan to install photovoltaic panels at the district’s transportation facility. The 325-kilowatt system is expected to save the district more than $65,000 annually in utility costs. Both projects are funded through the Energy Conservation Assistance Act and will reduce electricity consumption and utility expenses, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The revisions to the Proposition 39: California Clean Energy Jobs Act 2016 Program Implementation Guidelines make it easier for districts to qualify for energy saving projects under the program. Major changes include reducing the savings-to-investment ratio from 1.05 to 1.01, allowing more maintenance cost savings within energy savings calculations and lowering the terms and conditions under which schools enter into power purchase agreements for solar energy systems. In addition, the guidelines make it easier for schools in Calaveras, Tuolumne and Trinity Counties to apply to the program. The schools in these counties were paying unusually low electricity rates because of a deal with the federal government dating back to 1962. The Energy Commission recognized these schools were unable to participate in the program because their low rates made it very difficult to reach the savings-to-investment ratio. The guidelines take into account the real cost of electricity in those counties and provides an updated figure for schools in those counties to use when applying to the program.