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Zero Net Energy

San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) is committed to leading the nation’s community college districts (CCDs) in sustainable facility practices and recently created a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) Strategy to identify the energy efficiency measures that would need to implemented to be a ZNE District by 2030. This aligns with California’s energy efficient building standard, Title 24, which states that all commercial buildings constructed after 2030 need to be ZNE. Along with that, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) created a goal that 50% of existing commercial buildings will reach ZNE by 2030.

The strategy outlines current building Energy Use Intensity (EUI)'s for the year of 2016, calculated through building sub-meter data. Natural gas and electricity usage were standardized into kBtu (kilo British Thermal Unit) for the EUI and visualized with the campus maps shown below.



For SMCCCD to reach ZNE, a known starting point eases the tracking and benchmarking process. From there, eight energy conserving and efficiency measures were identified that had the greatest energy reducing impact and shortest simple payback period. In no particular order these are: CO2 (carbon dioxide) sensors, VFDs (variable frequency drive) on supply fans of AHUs (Air handling unit) in gyms, window film, LEDs (light-emitting diode) for interior lighting, advanced plug load controls, occupancy/day lighting sensors, winter closure, central plant heat recovery systems.

SMCCCD has already employed many best practices to minimize cost and environmental impact. These encompass, but are not limited to utility metering on all facility buildings in the District, retrofits to more efficient mechanical and electrical systems, implementation of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold building certification for new construction minimum and ZNE readiness building standards, and investment in renewable power.

Current energy efficiency examples in action at SMCCCD include:

  1. Five existing buildings in the District are LEED certified, with two new LEED Gold buildings on the horizon before 2020.
  2. District-wide LED exterior lighting retrofit in 2016.
Through this strategy and continuing current practices, the District will be one-step closer to strategically preparing for the future and securing their energy independence. Many additional benefits will manifest out of increased energy independence including an increase in learning opportunities for students through the campus becoming a living laboratory, actively exemplifying local and global stewardship, and remaining competitive among other higher educational institutions.