Net Zero Energy: Technical and Economic Feasibility
We’ve been asked a number of times whether Net Zero status is achievable technically using renewable energy products and whether it makes economic sense.
While there is considerable value to lower carbon emissions for our global environment, our commercial and, to a great extent, residential market choices remain driven by finite resources – i.e. money. Invariably, economics, including initial and recurring costs, ROI, and related payback are primary concerns when making decisions on whether to adopt renewable energy systems are appropriate.
One thing is clear – oil and gas are limited resources and will continue trending upward, and the question of whether renewable-based heating and cooling systems are economically feasible should be asked in conjunction with whether operating costs of traditional fuel-based heating and cooling systems are and will remain economically sustainable …
Our position is that typically no single renewable energy solution will enable Net Zero status in a way that makes sense financially. Rather, if we approach energy efficiency using renewable more holistically by combining technologies, the Net Zero status or Holy Grail is not only achievable but affordable.
For example combining a highly efficient, well designed, Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) system with Solar PV and Solar Thermal can be a very cost effective, predictable energy solution. Solar PV can provide the electricity required to run the highly efficient GSHP which is used for both heating and cooling. Solar Thermal can provide nearly 80% of hot water requirements – thereby offloading the heating system, making the size of the heater smaller, with lower energy consumption requirements.
Additionally, there are non-mechanical pieces to this Net Zero puzzle that are equally important. In fact, looking at the heating and cooling technologies as a complete system is only the first step. One still needs to integrate not only high-performing heating and cooling technologies but also high-performing building materials – from the perspective of heat loss and heat gain.
Therefore higher quality insulation and R-values in the attic, walls, and basement are important components to achieving Net Zero status. Higher quality windows, doors, and entry ways, are important contributors to minimizing heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.
By minimizing heat loss and gain, renewable energy systems can be sized smaller, leading to lower initial costs, and lower operating costs. With smaller heating and cooling demand (or load) on the system, these systems can run more efficiently and outpace traditional combustion systems (oil and gas) on initial and long-term recurring costs.
NET ZERO ENERGY IS TECHNICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE WITH A MORE HOLISTIC INTEGRATION OF RENEWABLE TECHNOLOGIES AND QUALITY BUILDING MATERIALS