Zero Net Energy Myths and Modes of Thought

Publication Type

Report

LBNL Report Number

LBNL-3974E

Abstract

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and a number of professional organizations have established a target of zero net energy (ZNE) in buildings by 2030. One definition of ZNE is a building with greatly reduced needs for energy through efficiency gains with the balance of energy needs supplied by renewable technologies. The push to ZNE is a response to research indicating that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased sharply since the eighteenth century, resulting in a gradual warming of the Earth's climate.

A review of ZNE policies reveals that the organizations involved frame the ZNE issue in diverse ways, resulting in a wide variety of myths and a divergent set of epistemologies. With federal and state money poised to promote ZNE, it is timely to investigate how epistemologies, meaning a belief system by which we take facts and convert them into knowledge upon which to take action, and the propagation of myths might affect the outcome of a ZNE program.

This paper outlines myths commonly discussed in the energy efficiency and renewable energy communities related to ZNE and describes how each myth is a different way of expressing "the truth." The paper continues by reviewing a number of epistemologies common to energy planning, and concludes that the organizations involved in ZNE should work together to create a "collaborative rationality" for ZNE. Through this collaborative framework it is argued that we may be able to achieve the ZNE and greenhouse gas mitigation targets.

Year of Publication

2010

Institution

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

City

Berkeley