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Net Zero Energy

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Achieving Net Zero Energy

What is Net Zero Energy?

A Net Zero Energy building produces as much energy from renewable sources as it consumes. A Net Zero Energy Airport possesses renewable energy sources with a generation capacity that is equal to the Airport’s total energy consumption. SFO is developing Net Zero capable buildings to support our ambitious long-term goal of achieving a Net Zero campus.


Commercial buildings use 18% of all of the energy in the United States, which includes the use of electricity to power lights and computers.1 These buildings are estimated to waste 30% of this energy due to inefficiencies in design and operation.2 Building energy use in the commercial sector is a concern for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. Eighty four percent of the energy used in the United States is derived from fossil fuel sources3,  which include oil, coal and natural gas.  These are not renewable sources of energy.
  2. The combustion of fossil fuels to generate energy releases greenhouse gasses (GHG) into the atmosphere, promoting climate change.

Given these concerns, can we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and utilize a perpetual energy source that reduces or eliminates environmentally harmful emissions? 

The answer is yes.  We can do this by increasing our reliance on renewable energy to meet our needs. SFO’s goal is to lead our industry by striving to achieve Net Zero Energy through efforts to reduce energy consumption and increase the amount of energy we generate from renewable resources.


How do we achieve Net Zero Energy?

  1. Renewable Energy – Photovoltaics (PV) using sunlight, an abundant and renewable source of energy, to generate electricity.
  2. Energy Efficient Buildings – Design buildings that are smart, integrated, and incorporate energy-saving equipment that take better advantage of their natural environment.
  3. Occupant Behavior – Educate occupants to use their space more efficiently.
  4. Technology – Analyze consumption patterns and identify improvement opportunities.  Automate tasks such as turning off computers and lights at night.  This will require effort, persistence, technology, and your help.


What can you do to help?

  1. Talk about it – Spread the word.  If you belong to an organization or community group, speak out when you have the opportunity.
  2. Think about it – Consider the energy and environmental impact before you flip on that switch.  Are there alternatives to turning on the light or the heat?  It’s the small things that count.
  3. Speak up – If you notice energy waste, have ideas about how to improve energy consumption, or come across helpful technologies, talk to somebody who can act on them.
  4. Teach it – If you are well-versed on environmental issues and energy conservation, use your expertise to educate others.


What is SFO already doing to achieve Net Zero Energy?

  1. Constructing LEED®4 certified buildings that are designed to conserve energy.
  2. Encouraging collaborative partnerships across departments within SFO to coordinate and drive energy efficiency initiatives (e.g. – Reaching for Number 1 committees).
  3. Incorporating renewable energy technologies into new buildings, such as the planned Consolidated Administration Campus (CAC), which will be Net Zero Energy capable.
  4. Tracking the Airport’s energy consumption and seeking to invest in projects that reduce both GHG emissions and energy consumption.


What does SFO still have to do to achieve Net Zero Energy?

  1. Continue to increase renewable energy generation capacity. 
  2. Actively collect data on energy SFO consumption and further study our usage habits and trends.
  3. Design projects to a progressively higher energy efficiency standard.
  4. Implement Business Intelligence to identify the next tier of improvement targets.
  5. Upgrade Building Management Systems to be more efficient.



1Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

2 ENERGY STAR. United States Environmental Protection Agency

3 The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

4 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®):  an ecology-oriented building certification program under the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)