Zero Net Energy: Workshop Highlights

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At a workshop sponsored by Consumers Energy with partners from Grand Rapids 2030 District (GR2030) and New Building Institute (NBI), experts took a deep dive into Zero Net Energy (ZNE) for midwest buildings. The event took place at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017.

Cheri Holman, Director of the GR2030 District and the Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter welcomed more than 100 guests eager to learn that ZNE is possible for Michigan properties.

Joseph Wadel,Commercial and Industrial Pilot Program Manager for Consumers Energy introduced the most aggressive incentive program offered by Consumers Energy, the Net Zero Energy Pilot Program.  Believed to be the first of its kind, the program offers generous incentives and technical assistance that help Consumers Energy gas and electric customers lower their energy use and reduce utility bills.

Dana Friis-Hansen, Director and CEO of GRAM shared a compelling story of how GRAM was envisioned by the late Peter M. Wege as a pillar in sustainable design. This led GRAM to achieve LEED Gold certification and ensured the museum would tread lightly on its environment.  To stay focused on continuous improvement, Dana announced that GRAM would be joining the ZNE movement with the help of Consumers Energy and the GR2030 District. This announcement is an enormous step toward the Grand Rapids 2030 District goals.

Ben Glendening, Consumers Energy Pilot Program Manager, confirmed Long Lake Culinary Campus, Catalyst Partners, Kalamazoo Nature Center, and Keeler Flats are also launching ZNE projects. Ben spearheaded the introduction to the Consumers Energy pilot program, discussing program goals, ZNE strategies & concepts, program structure and available incentives.

Ralph DiNola, CEO of NBI located in Portland, Oregon examined the national status of ZNE. Ralph defined ZNE at various scales and familiarized the audience with the growing number of ZNE buildings across the nation. He delivered information on national and regional ZNE projects, policies and programs, ZNE financing & incentives and the life cycle cost analysis of ZNE buildings.  See Ralph’s presentation here.

Alison Sutter, Sustainability Manager for the City of Grand Rapids provided an update on sustainability goals of the city including the city’s dedication to achieve 100% of their energy from renewable resources by 2025.  To learn more about Grand Rapids sustainability, check out the five-year plan here.

Ralph DiNola and Webly Bowles, Project Manager of NBI, gave a general overview of ZNE. They provided guidance to design your own ZNE project including: selecting a team, setting goals, engaging stakeholders, designing to the target and verification through ongoing monitoring.

As a local example, Jim Wenson from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58 in Detroit shared their story as one of Michigan’s first ZNE buildings. Check out this video highlighting the challenges, insights, and features of this ZNE building.

Celia King-Scott, Senior Engineer with Consumers Energy took a deep dive into the offerings of the ZNE pilot program explaining each step, the incentive amounts and the technical assistance that will be offered by the pilot. See the details by viewing Celia’s presentation here.

Kyle Peczynski, from Petros Partners, shared information on Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). A tool that provides long term loans as property assessments. To learn more about Grand Rapids PACE financing, click here.

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion addressing questions from attendees.  It was an inspirational day filled with deep discussions on the low carbon future of ZNE in Michigan.

To view all presentations from the ZNE Workshop click here

Written by Morgan Price, USGBC-WM