New and Notable

January 03, 2012
January/February 2012
A version of this article appears in the January/February 2012 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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ACEEE's Energy Scorecard

A sour U.S. economy, tight state budgets, and Congress's failure to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy have not slowed the growing momentum toward increased energy efficiency, according to the recently released fifth edition of the annual ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The Scorecard ranks the states based on an array of metrics that capture best practices and recognize leadership in energy efficiency policy and program implementation. It also benchmarks progress and provides a road map for states to advance energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors.

The fifth edition of the Scorecard ranks the top ten states as follows: Massachusetts (taking the top spot for the first time); California (slipping from the top spot that it held in the first four editions); New York; Oregon; Vermont; Washington State; Rhode Island; Minnesota; Connecticut; and Maryland (making its first appearance in the top ten, and also one of the six most improved states in 2011).

The ten states most in need of improvement (from dead last to number 42) are North Dakota; Wyoming; Mississippi; Kansas; Oklahoma; South Carolina; West Virginia; Missouri; Alabama (also one of the six most improved states); and South Dakota.

The six most improved states include Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Alabama, Maryland, and Tennessee.

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You can download the fifth edition of the ACEEE Scorecard at

Along with the rankings, the ACEEE Scorecard documents the following trends:

  • Total budgets for electricity efficiency programs increased to $4.5 billion in 2010, up from $3.4 billion in 2009. Combined with natural-gas program budgets of about $1 billion, total energy efficiency budgets in 2010 equal about $5.5 billion. Given the increasing regulatory commitments to energy efficiency, this growth will likely continue over the next decade.
  • Twenty-nine states have either adopted or made significant progress toward adopting the latest energy-saving building codes for homes and commercial properties—up from 20 in 2010 and 10 in 2009.
  • Twenty-four states have adopted an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS), which sets long-term energy savings targets and drives utility-sector investments in energy efficiency programs. States that adopted EERS policies in 2007 and 2008 are now realizing significant energy savings and moving ahead in the Scorecard rankings.

Europe’s Self-Sufficient House

The interior of the self-sufficient home features light colors and an open floor plan. (HELMA)

Europe’s “first affordable self-sufficient energy house” (according to its builders) has been completed in Lehrte, Germany. The buyers will supposedly never have to pay an electric bill and only a very minor heating bill. Nor, it is claimed, will they ever have to buy fuel for their cars.

The 162 m2 (1,743 ft2) house is suitable for a couple and two children. Its cost is given as the equivalent of about US$500,000, but that, the media point out, doesn’t include the cost of the site, which should be large, to avoid having nearby buildings shade the house.

The builder was Helma Eigenheimbau AG, under the direction of solar pioneer Timo Leukefeld, who reports that the energy independence strategy has two elements: rigid efficiency and self-production. On the efficiency end, nothing but LED lamps are used for lighting, and the kitchen is equipped with the latest energy-saving appliances.

There are special savings with the washing machine and dishwasher, since these use the house’s sun-heated water exclusively.

The entire south-facing roof is used to produce energy for the home. (HELMA)

The entire south-facing roof is used to produce energy. The upper part supplies the thermal energy for heating and hot water, while the lower part produces solar electricity. The thermal energy heats water for a well-insulated, 9,300-liter tank, reaching from the ground floor to the roof in the middle of the house. It supplies about two-thirds of what’s needed for in-floor heating and hot water. The house is well insulated to preserve the heat, with 16-inch-thick walls of a high-tech brick that still lets air enter.

Germany doesn’t have enough annual sunshine to provide all the heat needed in the winter months, so the house also has a very efficient wood-burning furnace. It is estimated that this will supply all the remaining heat needed for a season with a half cord of beech wood, which costs the equivalent of about US$210 and comes from a sustainable source.

The electricity produced is, on the other hand, more than adequate. There is so much, the builders claim, that the owner can use the extra to completely power a small electric automobile. The house is equipped with a lead accumulator battery that sits outside in a steel cage. This battery can get it through 10 to 15 sunless days. (It is recommended, however, that the house be connected to the power grid—just in case!)

—Ted Shoemaker

Ted Shoemaker first went to Germany as a U.S. Army officer. He married a German woman and stayed on as a writer and editor. Now retired and based in Frankfurt, he keeps his hand in by acting as a correspondent for a number of American magazines.

The UC Davis West Village opened its doors on October 15, 2011, as the largest planned net zero community in the nation. (UC Davis)

Nation’s Largest Net Zero Energy Community Opens Doors

Setting a national precedent in sustainable design, UC Davis West Village opened its doors on October 15, 2011, as the largest planned net zero energy community in the nation. Located on the University of California campus in Davis, this visionary development is designed to generate as much energy each year as it consumes.

“UC Davis West Village illustrates our commitment to cutting-edge research in sustainability and the value and impact of public-private partnerships,” says UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “The success of these partnerships demonstrates what can be achieved when innovations in design, science, and engineering come together for the public good.”

Residents and supporters attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house to celebrate the completion of the first elements of UC Davis West Village’s $300 million initial phase: 315 apartments, 42,500 square feet of commercial space, a recreation center, and a village square.

UC Davis West Village is a visionary model for integrating pioneering sustainable principles with high-quality living environments, creating an eco-friendly lifestyle.

When completed, the ambitious 130-acre development will be home to about 3,000 people in 662 apartments and 343 single-family houses. Net zero energy has never been attempted on this scale before.

The project is a collaboration between UC Davis and West Village Community Partnership, LLC (a joint venture of Carmel Partners of San Francisco and Urban Villages of Denver). The developer has a 65-year ground lease with the university for the project.

“UC Davis West Village is a visionary model for integrating pioneering sustainable principles with high-quality living environments, creating an eco-friendly lifestyle for students, faculty, and staff,” says Nolan Zail, senior vice president of development at Carmel Partners. “We believe the success of this innovative public-private partnership and demonstrated net zero energy living community will inspire other public and private institutions to build similar sustainable communities.”

Single-family homes, for sale to staff and faculty, are slated to be complete in late 2012.

In its Zero Net Energy Action Plan, released September 1, 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission called for shifting all new residential construction in California to net zero energy by 2020, and all new commercial construction by 2030.

UC Davis West Village relies on two strategies to achieve the net zero energy goal: aggressive energy efficiency measures and on-site power generation.

If built to code, the completed portions of UC Davis West Village would use 22 million kWh of electricity a year. But by employing aggressive energy efficiency measures, planners project that this total can be reduced by 50% to about 11 million kWh per year.

The energy efficiency measures include solar-reflective roofing, radiant-barrier roof sheathing, and extra insulation. Energy-efficient exterior lighting fixtures, indoor occupancy sensors, and daylighting techniques will help the community to use about 60% less energy than if standard lighting had been used. A web-based tool makes it possible to monitor energy use by unit. And a smart phone app lets residents turn off lamps and plugged-in electronics remotely.

A 4-megawatt PV system is expected to meet the energy needs of the first 1,980 apartment residents and commercial spaces.

On the horizon is a biodigester, based on technology developed at UC Davis, which would convert campus table scraps and animal and plant waste into energy. The community is sustainable in other ways, as well. It offers an extensive bike network and is served by the campus’s student-run Unitrans bus service (the buses are powered by natural gas). Drought-friendly landscaping, water-saving toilets, recycled building materials, and paints low in volatile organic compounds are just some of the conservation-minded features incorporated into the Village’s design.

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For more information, visit the UC Davis West Village web site at

Grant funding for the UC Davis West Village energy initiative came from DOE’s Community Renewable Energy Deployment program, the California Energy Commission, the California Public Utility Commission’s California Solar Initiative, and the California Energy Commission’s PIER Renewable-Based Energy Secure Community program. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Chevron Energy Solutions, Energy+Environmental Engineering, and Davis Energy Group, together with UC Davis faculty and staff, played key roles in the net zero energy planning and feasibility studies.

Under the neighborhood master plan for UC Davis West Village, a future construction phase could include another 882 student beds and 132 single-family homes on 94 additional acres. No time line has yet been set for this phase.

Build It Green’s New Home Brochure for Homeowners. (Built It Green)

10,000 GreenPoint Homes in California

The California-based nonprofit, Build It Green recently announced a huge milestone: 10,000 single- and multi-family homes received the organization's GreenPoint Rated label by the end of 2011.

Together, these GreenPoint Rated homes have saved California over 112 million gallons of water and nearly 9,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

The GreenPoint rating system assigns points based on five categories: Energy Efficiency, Resource Conservation, Indoor Air Quality, Water Conservation, and Community Benefits. Point values are determined based on the use of verified green construction practices and sustainable materials that exceed California's residential building and energy code requirements.

To ensure a home is built or remodeled to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impacts, GreenPoint assesses points based on green building techniques including:

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For more information on GreenPoint Rated homes, visit

  • Increasing energy efficiency by implementing energy saving construction techniques and equipment such as solar power, solar water heating, and Energy Star appliances.
  • Conserving water with toilets, faucets, showerheads, and landscaping that require less water.
  • Creating healthier indoor air quality by using less toxic paint and installing appropriate ventilation systems to reduce levels of chemicals, dust, and mold.
  • Using reclaimed or sustainable building materials like bamboo and recycled glass to protect forests and reduce landfill waste.
  • Creating livable communities, enhancing quality of life and minimizing pollution through community benefits like proximity to public transportation, stores, and other services.

In addition to environmental benefits, homes that have been built or remodeled using green building techniques have been shown to lower the cost of monthly utility bills, home maintenance, and repairs.

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