"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Winners Announced for PG&E-Sponsored ‘Zero Net Energy’ Competition

By Jonathan Marshall

A team from Portugal created Cactus, one of the winning designs.

The University of California’s newest campus near Merced is so passionate about environmental sustainability that all of its buildings have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

Not resting on those laurels, the institution recently hosted a global competition to seek designs for new university buildings and a district energy plan that would meet the exacting standard of zero net energy (ZNE) use. In other words, they would produce as much energy as they use over the course of a year through a combination of state-of-the-art energy efficiency and grid-connected, on-site, renewable generation (usually solar).

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

The “Architecture at Zero 2012” competition, administered by the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute for Architecture and sponsored by PG&Eannounced its winners today (Oct. 24) in Merced.  An international panel of judges awarded a total of $25,000 in prizes to four professional teams and two student teams.

“We received progressive and innovative competition entries from all over the world, making these winning entries true models of zero net energy design at its best,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland.

PG&E’s vice president of customer energy solutions, Steve Malnight, said the utility was proud to sponsor this year’s competition. “It’s our hope that this competition will inspire the next generation of zero net energy buildings to help achieve California’s clean energy future.”

A team from Melbourne, Australia, created the winning Cotton Farm design.

As PG&E’s ZNE program director Peter Turnbull explained at last year’s award ceremony in San Francisco, which the utility also sponsored, “We ran this competition to help advance the practice of ultra-high performance building design. When designers start projects from the beginning with a ZNE objective, it changes how they make design choices, instead of ‘business as usual.’  We want to reinforce and communicate the value of changing the design process.”

California has an ambitious goal of making all new residential buildings meet a “zero net energy” standard by 2020. Commercial buildings must target the same standard by 2030. But the ZNE movement now has champions in many states across the country, and more than a dozen countries around the world.

Email Jonathan Marshall at jonathan.marshall@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.