Among U.S. states, California continues to lead the way in policies that aim to cut carbon emissions.

The Golden State has ambitious emission-reduction targets, and has implemented policies for both transportation and energy to achieve them.

But the city of Santa Monica has just done something unprecedented—even for California.

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Last week, Santa Monica's city council voted to approve an ordinance requiring all new single-family homes built within city limits to be "zero-net energy."

That term refers to buildings that generate as much energy as they consume.

This is typically achieved through a combination of on-site energy production—usually through renewable sources—and efficiency measures that lower the energy consumed.

SolarCity roof tile-replacing solar panels

SolarCity roof tile-replacing solar panels

Santa Monica city officials claim this is the zero-net energy ordinance, which will be implemented beginning in 2017, is the first of its kind in the world.

There are multiple standards for zero-net energy buildings, but the city chose to adopt one used in the 2016 California Green Building Standards Code, also known as CALGreen.

Under the CALGreen standard, a building's status as zero-net energy is based solely on the amount of renewable energy produced onsite, which incentivizes the use of renewable sources.

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Santa Monica's zero-net energy mandate follows a 2008 roadmap published in 2008 by the California Public Utilities Commission as part of the agency's first Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan.

It included proposals to require that all new California residential construction be zero-net energy by 2020, and all commercial construction by 2030.

So far, the Santa Monica's ordinance for single-family homes is the only legislation passed in the state that mandates zero-net energy construction.

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

The ordinance must receive final approval from the California Energy Commission.

More local zero-net energy ordinances would certainly help California meet the ambitious goals laid out in a climate bill passed back in August.

It requires California to reduce greenhouse-gas emission to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

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That means officials must find a way cut emissions an additional 40 percent from the previous target in just 15 years.

Analysts have already said this may require more aggressive measures to reduce emissions.

Those could include even greater reliance on renewable energy, and vastly increased sales of battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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