Zero Net Energy Buildings:
How effective has Cambridge, MA been in creating a net zero energy community?
Cambridge, MA is one of the country's oldest cities, yet it is also one of the earliest adopters of a comprehensive Zero Net Energy Action Plan.
In the USA, commercial and residential buildings account for about 39 percent of the country’s energy consumption and 11 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Heating and cooling, which are energy intensive processes, account for the majority of energy consumed by buildings. As urban development in the commercial and residential sectors continue to grow, there is demand to reduce energy intensity and overall consumption for both new construction and existing buildings. The implementation of energy efficiency technologies is an effective method to reducing buildings’ energy and carbon footprints. However, as 80 percent of the country’s energy is sourced from natural gas, coal, and petroleum, simply reducing building energy usage can only accomplish so much to reduce overall carbon emissions. To further reduce fossil fuel emissions in the buildings sector, the US Department of Energy (DOE), National Institute of Building Sciences, and numerous other entities have developed the concept of Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Buildings. Despite the DOE’s role in defining this concept, there is no comprehensive federal policy for implementation, leaving it up to smaller scale levels of governance, usually cities, to choose to implement their own ZNE policies. Cambridge, MA, is one such city that is committed to reducing its carbon footprint through Net Zero Action Plan.