Zero energy homes take a step closer

Its electricity and water heating is wholly powered by photovoltaics, it uses recycled and energy efficient construction materials, and it is extensively equipped with water conservation equipment.

Campaigners hope all new homes in California will be powered solely by renewable energy like the SOLARA development (Copyright Community HousingWorks)

Campaigners hope all new homes in California will be powered solely by renewable energy like the SOLARA development (Copyright Community HousingWorks)

The SOLARA development in California, which officially opened last year, is what green campaigners hope will become the model for all new homes in the state.

Last week a draft bill passed another hurdle in the California Assembly which environmentalists hope will bring this dream closer to being reality.

The Residential Zero Net Energy Bill, which will require all new residential buildings to be net zero energy by 2020, was approved by the assembly's Natural Resources Committee.

The bill, which was written by assembly member Lori Saldaña and is sponsored by environmental organisation Global Green USA, was passed by a vote of five to three.

"The state is committed to reducing greenhouse gases from fossil fuel power generation," Ms Saldaña said.

"Incorporating energy saving technology and onsite renewable power generation like solar into new residential construction will make a significant contribution to the achievement of those objectives."

Those behind the bill hope it will lead to the design of more homes with both energy efficient design features and clean onsite energy generation to result in no net gas or electricity purchases.

Lower energy consumption will also reduce stress on the power grid, reducing the likelihood of a repeat of the 2000 blackouts in California.

Global Green policy director Mary Luevano said: "Energy use in buildings is the largest single global warming pollution source in the United States - accounting for 48% of all greenhouse gas emissions nationally.

"Urgent action is needed to address the climate crisis and [the bill] is a huge step in the right direction."

The bill's next test will be when it is heard by the assembly's Appropriations Committee next month.

Kate Martin

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