PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will lead an effort by three companies, a utility, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in evaluating the energy use and grid integration of a new community of at least 20 zero net energy houses, the first development of a community of highly-efficient homes in the state.

Results from this project will support EPRI’s work with utilities in the United States and abroad on a more integrated power system while boosting CPUC’s objectives to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy in the state of California.

Meritage Homes, BIRAenergy, Itron, and Southern California Edison (SCE) will work with EPRI and CPUC in building and evaluating the project, which will help California meet its “big bold goal” for all new houses in the state to be zero net energy by 2020 and meet the state’s stricter limitations of carbon emissions.

Zero net energy houses, with help from the grid, are designed to generate the same amount of energy that they consume. They have been a central goal of California strategies aimed at increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. However, they were neither cost-effective nor available for most homebuyers until recently.

Zero net energy houses still rely on the grid, both to absorb excess solar generation during the day and to deliver power at night. Over the next several years, the project team will study how these houses and their advanced technologies can be effectively integrated into the utility’s electric grid. Simultaneously, researchers will investigate avenues that improve the scalability and economic feasibility of these communities across the state.

Meritage Homes designed the houses in the development. The dwellings feature such items as solar panels and high-efficiency HVAC systems, water heating equipment, heat pumps, and integrated fresh air ventilation. Additionally, each home will have spray foam insulation, highly insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting, smart chargers, and smart appliances. With these technologies, the homes are projected to curb energy use by as much as 60 percent compared to a house built to the latest California Energy Code.

“This project represents an ideal site and an ideal team to evaluate the effectiveness of energy efficient housing, equipment, and appliances,” said Ram Narayanamurthy, EPRI project manager.

“The data that are collected will likely guide future developments of zero net energy housing in California and elsewhere and how they integrate into the electric system.”

More information about the project is available at

Publication date: 5/4/2015

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!