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City of Lancaster Becomes First City in California to Mandate ZNE Standards for New Builds, Adopts Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance

Post Date:02/15/2017
The City of Lancaster has established a notable footprint in the alternative energy arena; enthusiastically being a City of firsts, relentlessly pursuing progressive advancements, and fully committing to a grander vision for establishing a sustainable future for the Antelope Valley. As such, the Lancaster City Council introduced the Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Home Ordinance during the January 24 City Council Meeting, and moved forward with adopting the Ordinance at last night’s meeting.

“The City of Lancaster has always prided itself on being a City of firsts – we continue to do so as we pave the way in the sustainable energy sphere,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris. “The Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance expands upon Lancaster’s residential solar ordinance so that new homes built in Lancaster now will not only be environmentally friendly, but have a zero net impact on our environment, while reducing energy costs for the homeowners. This is a great stride in Lancaster’s journey to become a Zero Net City.” 

The ZNE Ordinance mandates all builders to install a solar system equal to two watts per square foot for each home built, beginning in 2017. Builders will have three options available to comply with the City’s Zero Net Energy requirement: a solar component, mitigation fees in lieu of a solar component, or a combination of both. All three options are designed to benefit the homeowner.

The builders’ first option is to install a solar component where the size of the system is based on the size of each home constructed – two watts per square foot. This option generates a zero-balance energy bill for the homeowner.

Instead of installing a solar component, the second option is for the builders to pay a Zero Net Energy mitigation/in lieu fee. The mitigation/in lieu fee is equal to $1.40 per square feet of each constructed home. As a benefit for the homeowner, with this option the homeowner receives credits for the new Lancaster Choice Energy ZNE Home Rate. This special rate will provide the homeowner with a 50% discount on the energy generation portion of their LCE bill for 20 years. 

(It is important to note that there are two parts to every electric bill: first, the electricity source/generation; and second, the cost of transmission & delivery. The LCE ZNE Home Rate will apply to the first portion of the participating homeowner’s LCE bill.) 

The third choice is a combination of the two options listed above. Instead of the size of the solar installation being determined by the square footage of the home, builders can install a two kilowatt (2,000 watt) solar system on each new home of 1,000 square feet or less. For larger homes, the builder then pays a ZNE mitigation/in lieu fee of $1.40 for the remaining square footage of the home. As with option two, the homeowner will receive the LCE ZNE Home Rate – a 50% discount on their generation rate for the next 20 years.

While the State is developing a similar requirement for home builders, it is not slated to go into effect until 2020. Therefore, Lancaster’s ZNE Ordinance is considered a reach code or requirement greater than what the State mandates. Accordingly, the City must complete a feasibility study and get final approval from the California Energy Commission (CEC) before implementing the new Ordinance. The feasibility study is currently underway and anticipated to be completed by April 2017, whereupon it will be submitted to the CEC for review, typically a 3-6 month process.
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