Zero Energy Now (ZEN), a pilot program aiming to create deep energy savings in existing residential buildings, has shown major success in achieving fossil fuel and grid electric savings in homes in Vermont. The ZEN Program was conceptualized in 2015 by the Building Performance Professionals Association of Vermont (BPPA-VT) with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings, often viewed as a difficult sector from which to achieve signification emissions reductions. In 2016, the first pilot of ZEN was launched, with EFG leading program implementation.
The ZEN Program focuses on three factors to create energy savings in homes: weatherization, efficient heating solutions, and renewable electricity generation. When retrofitting a home, ZEN employs a minimum standard to every building: a 10% reduction in energy use (through weatherization), a 50% reduction in fossil fuels and grid electricity, and a requirement that 50% of household energy consumption is met by on-site renewables. Weatherization increases the efficiency of a home through home improvements such as air sealing and insulation, while heating solutions reduce the need for fossil fuel use through a switch to heat pumps or efficient wood heating. And renewable electricity generation is achieved through on-site or community solar photovoltaic installations.
These three factors work together to significantly cut a home’s consumption of electricity from the grid and fossil fuel use in space and water heating. In fact, an analysis of 24 homes retrofitted by the pilot program showed remarkable savings: an average of 64% energy savings in the homes. This also means significant financial savings for the homeowners: on average, the program resulted in more than $1,800 in annual savings per home. Compare this to the $400-$500/year savings from typical Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program participant.
The ZEN Program shows major promise in drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings by addressing two major sectors contributing to emissions in Vermont: thermal and electricity. In order to cut our emissions in accordance with Vermont’s recently passed Global Warming Solutions Act, the Green Mountain State needs to address these emissions head-on. In partnership with the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) and financial support from several foundations, ZEN is again open for business in Vermont, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Interested in learning more? Visit http://zeroenergynowvt.com/
Work in another state in the clean energy arena and want to learn how ZEN could be adapted and implemented in your state? You are in luck! NEEP and EFG have additional funding to assist other states in potentially developing a ZEN Program outside of Vermont. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.