Zero Carbon Compendium


'The New Energy for America plan has committed $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyse private efforts for building a clean energy future, ensure that 10% energy generation comes from renewable energy by 2012, and reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050'

Key Facts

Country Population:313.2 m
Capital:Washington DC
Capital Population:4.4 m
Area:9.1 km²
Density:34 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

There are over 112 million housing units in US, including rented apartments, seasonal cottages, suburban single-family houses, and manufactured homes.[1]

63% of American homes contain three or more bedrooms, 65% have a garage, and 86% have air-conditioning. More than one-third (36%) of these are in urbanised suburbs, while 11% are in 'rural' suburbs. The population density of the US is relatively low, and the country is dependent on fossil fuels for almost all of its energy supply. While largely self sufficient in coal and natural gas supplies, the country is heavily dependent on oil imports. As of 2009, renewable energy contributed 8% to the total primary energy supply.[2]

In the area of energy R&D, the US is a world leader in many technologies, and has contributed greatly to the development of new and advanced energy technology. Today, it is the largest provider of research funding for new technologies in the world, driving the development of carbon capture and storage, biofuels, nuclear power, vehicle fuel efficiency, wind energy and photovoltaics.

The New Energy for America plan has committed $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyse private efforts for building a clean energy future, reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050 and guarantee that 10% of energy generation comes from renewable sources by 2012. The US DOE's Building Technology Program aims for the market acceptance of low and net zero energy homes by 2020.


Exemplar Project

Los Vecinos
Chula Vista, California

Los Vecinos. Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation.

Built in 2009 on the site of a former dilapidated motel, Los Vecinos is a development of 42 affordable housing units in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego. Developed by Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation and LEED Platinum certified (the highest rating available), the housing is available to families who earn 30-60% less than the area median income. The project was partly financed by state tax credits for low-income housing and renewable energy.

Sustainable features include the 93 kW of on-site solar photovoltaic power, which meets nearly all the electricity demand for all units, common areas and parking spaces. The housing units are fitted with Energy Star appliances, low-flow fittings and dual-flush toilets. The complex also features tankless water heaters, low-E windows and low VOC paint. The roof has been painted white to reduce the urban heat island effect. Passive features include cross ventilation and ceiling fans that take advantage of ocean breezes, so that no mechanical cooling is installed in the building. Overall, the development has achieved high levels of energy efficiency, performing 43% better than California's already strict energy code.[5]

Policy and Targets

Despite signing the Kyoto Protocol, the US government did not ratify the treaty and is therefore not required to limit its emissions under the agreement. While there are some CO2 targets in individual states, no target has been set at the national level. However, the government has been active in developing a post-2012 framework and agreement.

The Department of Energy set up the 'Builders Challenge' in 2008 for the house building industry to build 220,000 high-performance homes by 2012 and 1.3 million by 2030.[3] Qualifying homes have to achieve 70 or better, out of 100, on the Energy Smart Home Scale (E-Scale).

Existing Frameworks

Existing building code standards are based on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) standards and the 2009 International Code Council's (ICC) International Energy Conservation Code.

The Building America[4] program aims to develop cost-effective solutions that reduce the average energy use of housing by 40-100%. The ultimate objective would be that its research activities would lead to the development of net zero energy homes.

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is one of the foremost programs for the design, construction and operation of green buildings, operating in all 50 states, as well as in 120 countries. In addition, more than 12,000 homes have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system, with 58,000 more homes registered.

Support, Incentives and Grants

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 facilitated the provision of tax incentives and loan guarantees for energy production of various types, including tax breaks for making energy conservation improvements to their homes. American consumers can avail themselves of several energy tax incentives, including:

• Home Energy Efficiency Improvement tax credits – for purchase and installation of specific products, e.g. energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and domestic heating/cooling equipment. For 2011, the credit is limited to a maximum of $500.

• Residential Renewable Energy tax credits – for installation of solar electric systems, small wind systems or geothermal heat pumps for up to 30% of the cost (maximum $2,000).

• Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency – for energy efficient home improvements, solar energy systems, fuel cells, small wind energy systems, geothermal heat pumps and small residential wind turbines.



  1. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2011). American Housing Survey for the United States: 2009. U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2010). Energy in Brief.
  3. U.S. Department of Energy. (2011). Building Technologies Program.
  4. U.S. Department of Energy. (2011). Building America: Resources for Energy Efficient Homes.
  5. Global Green USA. (2010). Greening Affordable Housing Initiative: Los Vecinos.
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