Part 3: The Value of Zero Energy
Note: This series was originally posted in January 2016. Due to continued interest in this topic this series has been updated with new information to maintain relevancy as of March 2020.
In our previous posts in the zero energy series, we discussed the definition of zero energy and showed how it’s calculated. In this final entry, we examine the significance of the zero energy concept.
The zero energy designation shows us the bigger picture: not all energy is equal. While zero energy can be confusing—two buildings that consume the same quantity of site energy might need to produce very different quantities of renewable energy based on the ratios of source fuels—the ultimate advantage is that it makes us stop and look at why we see those differences.
Zero energy underscores the overall energy picture. While some areas of the U.S., like the Pacific Northwest, enjoy higher-efficiency power sources, the single, nationally-applied electricity conversion factor reminds us that isolating one part from a larger, connected system and calling it “sustainable” misses the point. Energy is a national and global issue, and each building, campus and community has a role to play in the overall production and use of energy.
While not as intuitive as net zero, the advantage of the zero energy designation is that it causes us to look not just at a building’s needs and production but also how that fits into our societal energy picture.
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Part 1: What is Zero Energy?
Part 2: Zero Energy vs. Net Zero Energy Case Study