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Now they Tell You How To Live

June 19, 2015

California now wants to dictate what kind of home you live in.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) want all new homes to be zero net energy in 2020.

Zero net energy homes produce as much energy as they consume.

It requires a home to create as much energy as it uses over a year. California reportedly wants this to also apply to multifamily and low-income housing.

This will require all new homes to have PV rooftop solar installations large enough to produce as much energy as the home consumes. To be a zero net energy home also requires offsetting the natural gas that’s used.

The aim is to have zero net energy homes mandated by code.

Cover from Novel by George Orwell

Cover from Novel by George Orwell

The city of Lancaster, California has already mandated that homes on lots over 7,000 sq. ft must have solar panels. Lots that are 70 feet wide and 100 feet deep, or equivalent, are typical of residential lots throughout America, while the average lot size in the United States is over 10,000 sq. feet.

This obviously adds to the cost of new homes. A PV rooftop solar installation for an average sized home using 900 kWh per month, the national average, will cost around $24,000 with a Powerwall battery. And this doesn’t offset the use of natural gas for heating.

Interestingly, it was this type of mandate that was included in the Waxman-Markey, American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, that was defeated in the U.S. Senate after passing in the House.

Congressman Waxman is from California, so the idea of forcing people to live in a zero net energy home is not new. This idea has been the dream of extreme environmentalists for years.

It reflects the concept of Big Government knowing what’s best for people.

Zero net energy homes will cost more than new homes without PV rooftop solar, and also more than existing homes. Existing homes would need to add PV rooftop solar as well as insulation to become zero net energy homes. Adding insulation is very expensive.

Square foot to square foot, this would make existing homes easier to sell when in competition with more costly new zero net energy homes.

Once the codes are established for new homes, it’s very likely they will be extended to existing homes.

The idea is to force people to install PV rooftop solar with batteries, and to reinsulate their homes. This concept was in the Waxman-Markey legislation.

Forcing people to own zero net energy homes is part of the program to cut CO2 emissions. Cutting CO2 emissions 80% by 2050 is the stated goal of the Obama administration and the EPA.

It is also the goal of this administration to have the United States agree to a treaty to be agreed upon this December in Paris, at the next Council of the Parties (COP) meeting.

COP meetings are part of the structure of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty the United States has already ratified, whereby the United State becomes a party to any new agreement to cut CO2 emissions.

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius said, “The agreement must be such that it doesn’t have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate.”

The fact that those in favor of a new agreement, similar to the Kyoto Protocol, want to bypass the U.S. Senate, which represents the people of the United States, shows how little regard these extremists have for Americans and their democracy.

California leads the nation in efforts to cut CO2 emissions, without regard for personal freedoms.

Imposing zero net energy homes is only the latest step. And it won’t be the last.

* * * * * *


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26 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2015 9:47 am

    Interesting. I wonder if it will leave more people homeless, because they can’t afford these homes, however, they might just move out of state. But that won’t solve the problem! Where will the low income folks go once they require this stuff everywhere?!

    The old homes will go up in price as they become more valuable, unless they also mandate that old homes be re-insulated and have a PV system installed. So, a once affordable house for a low income person might become too expensive for them to purchase!

    Ugh, I just have to say … what about all those billionaires and big companies that have a lot of money? They should be helping too. After all, it’s a community effort. They could do a lot even with just a small portion of the money they have!

    Now, while I do agree with the environmental aspect of this, I think this might be a bit harsh. Why not give more tax discounts to people that have zero net energy homes. Maybe also subsidize PV systems. This way, you’d be promoting the switch, but not forcing it on people. Eventually everyone will have a net zero home. However, they might have done their work and figured out that even with promotion, the changes will be too slow. Then again, it is California…. what else would you expect?! xD
    Or maybe they want even MORE money, so they will fine people who don’t have a net zero home. Haha, and then they will have even less money to make their house net-zero … wonderful! Just great! NOT!!! 😦

    My question to you, Donn – what is your stance on this? Do you agree? Disagree? Is there anything you’d change, if you could change it? Seems like you might disagree, but it isn’t clear to me.

    • June 19, 2015 10:14 am

      Thanks for your comment and question.
      Your comment points out the absurdity of the zero net energy mandate, with which I agree.
      With respect to my position:
      First, I strongly disagree with big government dictating how we live.
      Second, I do not believe that CO2 is the primary cause of climate change so I see no need for zero net energy homes.
      Third, I strongly disagree with subsidizing PV rooftop solar and wind energy.
      With respect to this third item:
      It’s unfortunate that PV rooftop solar and wind energy can actually force higher rates on consumers or require the government to take over the industry. Please refer back to my earlier articles, The Duck Speaks pt 1 & 2.
      And subsidies merely takes money from tax payers and gives it to someone the government picks.

  2. donb permalink
    June 19, 2015 4:53 pm

    This requirement is a GOOD thing for the US as a whole, but DISASTROUS for CA.
    It will make clear to Americans the various problems in such an extreme and rapid adoption of “green” energy. CA will be the canary in the coal mine — until it croaks.

    There will be issues beyond increasing the price of new homes and apartments, and of older homes and apartments if the require applies to them, To the extent that solar & wind are not 24/7/365 at any location, and that battery storage is very expensive and insufficient for long-lasting capacity, most homes will need to have grid access. Where does that grid get its power? In large part from buying rooftop photovoltaic energy form wealthy homeowners. Those of lower economic means will suffer the most. Watch for new corporations getting rich renting “green’ energy sources to individual homeowners and renters for huge fees, just to meet these requirements. The exodus will be the 1930s in reverse. Hello Texas.

  3. Ivan Quinchia permalink
    June 20, 2015 8:01 am

    Don, I agree with a lot of your posts however, high performance building has huge advantages in lowering operating costs of home ownership.
    Technics have evolved and the cost of building envelope construction has come down significantly and just like a business lowering operating expenses is a concern for home owners.

    I do agree that mandating net zero building creates a cost burden that most can’t afford however technologies are changing and homeowners are adapting to life style changes that will allow for net zero to move forward without goverment subsidies.

    • June 20, 2015 8:51 am

      Ivan. Thanks for your comment. Perhaps you can enlarge on your comment.
      I am not aware of any low cost ways to remediate an existing home to improve its heat transfer rate, such as with insulation. There’s no question that operating costs can be reduced, but will the investment to improve operating costs be economic. The Pacific Northwest Laboratory evaluated low e windows, and found it took over 20 years to recover the investment.
      If you have new information about this issue I would greatly appreciate your sharing it. It’s important for me to have the latest information.

  4. donb permalink
    June 20, 2015 4:14 pm

    I have lived in the same house on the Gulf Coast since 1969, and summers have gotten warmer here. My peak summertime electricity use (in k-watt), primarily from air conditioning (AC), is only half of what it was 40+ years ago. That occurred via the following: much more attic insulation, power attic vent; ceiling fans and lower thermostat settings; higher efficiency AC, large trees for shade. I decided against low-e windows for the reason Donn mentions — it would require many years to recoup the cost (at least 20).
    Prior to the above changes, I calculated (approximately) that half of the heat exchange for my house was through the attic, a quarter through the walls (shade trees the only recourse here); and a quarter through windows and doors. (I have lots of windows, typical of older southern homes.)
    Over time and with some effort, a house can be given greater energy efficiency, and I fully support such. However, under current conditions it is foolhardy to believe that homes and small businesses can be made totally independent of fossil fuel. that will require much time and lots of investment, and probably will still result in considerably higher electricity prices.

    • June 20, 2015 4:37 pm

      Thanks for great comments. Your calculations on where the heat loss occurred are interesting, and lead directly to some low cost actions: Attic fans for venting, adding attic insulation (up to a point), shade trees or awnings, and programable thermostats. The point is, some savings can be achieved that have a good payback, but many proposed actions are not economic.

  5. donb permalink
    June 20, 2015 4:16 pm

    correction above — obviously I mean higher thermostat settings.

  6. usurbrain permalink
    June 20, 2015 7:04 pm

    Who are they tring to make rich?
    The average home size in CA is closer to 2400 sqft than the 1200 that all the propaganda on the benefits of solar PV home system is based upon. So calculating for the average home just about doubles the size and cost of the system. The Musk Solar City/Powerwall propaganda is based upon 1200 sqft and is over $30,000 for that home. And I do not think/know if that includes the new, improved 10kW battery that would be needed for this home and at least two for a larger home. (Is this how Musk is going to sell a million of them? More cronyism in action.) . For 2400 sqft you are talking $50,000 (plus installation). And that amount will be added to your home mortgage payments. Using ther calculator on for loan payment, you will pay $299.78 more each month to pay off that extra $50,000. California makes you pay property tax on everything, thus, it will also add $50,000 – $100,000 to the value of your house increasing your taxes by about $300 to $500 per month. The $30,000 Unit that Musk is pushing as the CURE, adds $179.87 a month and probably 3/4 of the previously stated tax increase. I don’t pay $300 a month for a 3200 sqft house for electricity and have never had a bill over $200. I don’t even pay $179.87 a month and I have a heat pump! But I dont live in CA. The only thing I can see this doing is forcing the size of homes to decrease to about 1/2 of the size they are now. Don’t forget, they will still have an electric bill and because of these measures the price of electricity in CA is going to double. What is that going to do to manufacturing and even service companies? (Is this why the Musk battery plant is in Carson City NV?)

    • June 21, 2015 8:57 am

      Thanks for your comments. I hadn’t thought about the increase mortgage payments or the higher property taxes, but they will certainly add to the cost pf PV rooftop solar.

  7. Ian Macdonald permalink
    June 22, 2015 6:19 am

    I think the key point here is that this does NOT mandate energy saving measures; it mandates sales for the solar panel merchants. Which, is presumably the only real objective.

    Here in the UK we are bombarded by nuisance telesales calls from solar panel sellers, to the point where most people bar all unidentified or international calls since that’s the only way to put a stop to it. That situation alone should tell us something about the scurrilous nature of the solar panel and windturbine trade.

    • June 22, 2015 9:12 am

      Thanks. Great comment. PV rooftop solar snake oil salesmen.

  8. Catcracking permalink
    June 22, 2015 11:40 pm

    Excellent article, I knew they were going crazy out west under Moon Beam, I just did not realize how ignorant they are about the current viability of alternatives to replace fossil fuel. They need an education in history and fundamental thermodynamics from knowledgeable engineers like you. we are many decades away from a viable replacement, wind and solar will never succeed.
    “The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) want all new homes to be zero net energy in 2020.”

    I would like to see someone audit those “fools”, (including those who voted for a similar proposal in the US congress) to determine if they are actually living the life style that they propose the masses endure. How many of them are living under the rules they proposed? We already know that the then US House leader demanded a wide body jet to fly her home virtually every weekend with her entourage. Her predecessor got by with a small jet. Huge carbon footprint for the priviledged. My proposed “rule” is that those who govern should first live under any regulations or laws they pass instead of giving them selves exemptions (Like Obamacare)

    It is my opinion that they are totally ignorant of history and are unaware of how fossil fuels have improved the environment and relived the human civilization of onerous conditions to survive.

    below is a quote that I found from that explains the history of how fossil fuels have improved environment and the life of the human race at least in developed civilizations which many want to punish and destroy.

    “The USA was well on it’s way to losing all of its forest land just before coal started being mined with steam power to make it cheap enough for the masses who do NOT have 20 acres of deadwood in their back yard. Coal is what saved our forests. Whales were hunted almost to extinction for lamp oil until kerosene became readily available. IC engines freed horses, oxen and other beasts of burden from a life of misery. FF is what transformed our country into a modern industrial age to make our lives immensely better and longer. The latest USGS survey I saw was that the USA has over 200 years of coal to burn and that is allowing for a growing population. Crude oil is something only a little less than that.”

  9. Catcracking permalink
    June 23, 2015 12:11 am

    Just stumbled into this graph which should be a reality check for those like Waxman and Markey who seem to think renewable s are the answer.

    Note this is global:

  10. Catcracking permalink
    June 23, 2015 12:27 am

    Note that circa 2 trillion dollars has been spent on alternative fuels.
    Is civilization getting it’s money’s worth.
    It seems to me that we are pushing failed old technology rather than next generation technology.

    • June 23, 2015 10:03 am

      Thanks for all your comments and the additional information. I’m going to use Fig 5, as shown in your comment, in an article on the new age of natural gas.
      It’s unfortunate, but very many well educated people have no fundamental understanding of energy.
      At a meeting yesterday, I presented the story of Natural Gas its New Age, that could stretch for a thousand years or more, and a very well intentioned and educated individual said policy could change the use of natural gas, inferring that it was only a bridge fuel to renewables.
      We all need to educate those we come in contact with, about real facts of energy.
      That, of course, is the purpose of my articles, here and on Facebook, but it’s a tough struggle in the face of all the misinformation in the media, plus that preached by the politicians who don’t, as you say, live under the rules the foster.

  11. kakatoa permalink
    June 23, 2015 2:52 pm

    Morning Donn,

    I am assisting a non-profit who is building a new Boys and Girls club in our area. Ground was finally broken a month ago for the building. I have a very limited role in project- to help in defining the requirements for the self-generation portion of the project (and find money to pay for the effort). We have a few months to work out the self-generation details as the building is going to take a while to be constructed.

    Your post sent me off to learn a bit more about ZNE and to find out if the general contractor for the building was using some of the Integrated design (ID) elements CA is using, making available, to meet our carbon (dioxide) reduction goals. Navigant recently published a report: that covers some of the opportunities and challenges in regards to how one defines ZNE, which we can use to assist in figuring out the requirements for our part of the project.

    The facility is getting it’s electrical energy from PG&E who recently stated:

    “ PG&E is well-positioned to meet its
    2020 Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) compliance requirements with 27% of our delivered electricity coming from eligible renewable sources in 2014. Our current portfolio is more than 50% (55%) carbon free and our electricity emissions rate is nearly one-third the national average was up to 55% carbon free sources last year…”.

    PG&E’s 2012 generation mix data noted that 21% of all the kWh provided to their customers for the year were sourced from their Diablo Canyon Nuclear Facility.

    Thought you might like the ZNE report for your files.

    • June 23, 2015 3:07 pm

      Thanks for the report. Sounds as though you are making a contribution of time, energy and knowledge. Great.

  12. Tom Clegg permalink
    June 23, 2015 3:23 pm

    Donn I was wondering if Waxman and Markey live in zero net energy homes? I would be willing to bet NO! what is also not included in the calculations is the fact that batteries do not last forever. So what is the price to replace the batteries once they die? It will not be cheap. This is senator Markey who is a over the top anti-nuke. Now he want to lower CO2 emissions while he wants to close nuclear power plants. WHAT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE HERE!

    • June 23, 2015 3:26 pm

      Great comment. Market and Waxman are on the far, far left. They make no sense at all, unless they believe in returning to nature and live like people did 300 years ago.

    • usurbrain permalink
      June 24, 2015 4:24 pm

      Look at the numbers I used above,, or do your own calculations. I have been seriously considering a solar collector PV panels, etc. since the OPEC fiasco in 1973. Even with all of the various subsidies, rebates, tax breaks/credits, etc. I have never been able to justify it. I do not use the break even period. I calculate what that same money would be worth if invested adding in what I would spend on maintenance, replacement, insurance, property tax increase payments, and other added costs. Add them up, and add that amount to the investment each year. Even if I did all of the work my self I always calculate having more money in the fund after 20 years than I saved on electricity payments (assuming only a 2% growth per year in the cost of electricity and a 5% return on investment. If you are unable to repair the equipment you need to assume that you have to pay for all maintenance. With that thrown into the mix, After 20 years I can start taking money out of the investment, pay the electric bill, and have “free electricity” (actually it is paid from the fund that I invested in) for the rest of my life. Don’t forget to decrease the efficiency each year for aging, and to make corrections to the collected power for days of sunshine and your actual location. North of the 41st parallel efficiency gets much lower.

      How is the average homeowner going to get on his roof and clean the panels their self? Needs to be done annually and more often in some areas, or decrease output by 10% per year. How is the average homeowner going to get on his roof and repair the panels their self? Price a simple Air Conditioner repair (on the roof) in my area they want $100 to tell you what is wrong and $250 additional to replace a $50 part. I just paid $800 for replacing a thermo valve on the condenser coil, on a 5 year old AC. I have never owns a furnace, AC, hot water heater, etc. that has lasted much beyond the “Warrantee” period – IF THAT. I worked at an electric power station. One of the electrical technicians lived on a hill and put up a wind turbine 25 years ago. He did ALL of the work, maintenance, etc. He constantly bragged about it the first five years, I could see it as I drove home from work. By the tenth year, the periods that it was not working and not on top of the tower increased. For the last five years it has not been up their.

      For a cabin by the lake (facing south) do it, it will help. Otherwise invest the money in a good retirement fund and you can retire early like I did.

      • June 24, 2015 5:16 pm

        Thanks. Good approach to an investment decision, which PV rooftop solar really is.

  13. kakatoa permalink
    June 24, 2015 9:22 am


    It looks like a fair number of home improvements classified as Energy Efficiency (EE) were not successful (i.e. negative rate of return on the capital invested) per a recent study summarized here: .

    The evaluation was undertaken by E2e

    • June 24, 2015 2:02 pm

      Thanks. The study confirms the anecdotal information I have been using.


  1. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #184 | Watts Up With That?

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