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Zero-Energy Schools

Net-zero schools consume less energy, provide educational opportunities for students, help achieve district-level achieve carbon-neutrality goals, and prioritize sustainable communities.

What is Net-Zero?

A zero energy building produces as much energy through clean, renewable resources (such as solar) as it consumes over the course of a year. These buildings are extremely energy efficient. On average, zero energy schools can use between 65%–80% less energy than conventionally constructed schools, and the remaining energy required is supplied by renewable energy.

As policies and programs advance, designers and building owners continue to seek ever-higher levels of performance and environmental stewardship. Getting to zero energy design and operation is feasible in every climate, market sector, size, and building type across the United States.

Status of NZE Schools

Currently, there are 91 net-zero schools in the United States. 11 states have at least one K–12 school that was net-zero energy certified , and 17 states have at least one K–12 school considered net-zero energy emerging.

Six states have policies or programs that target net-zero energy consumption specifically in schools. Three of these states (CA, KY, MD) recently had grant programs to help schools transition to net-zero energy, though these programs are not currently funded. MA and NY have recently passed legislation that may implicate schools in set goals of net-zero energy use in school and state buildings.

Net Zero Resources

  • NBI Getting to Zero Buildings Database: This resource from the New Buildings Institute includes an interactive map that you can filter by Education Projects to identify verified and emerging zero energy projects throughout the country. READ MORE →
  • K12 Climate Action State Policy Landscape: This landscape from the K12 Climate Action Aspen Coalition cites 6 states with policies that target net-zero schools and presents (pg. 12-14) a comprehensive table outlining which states have net-zero policies and schools. READ MORE →
  • Net Zero Case Studies: The Better Buildings Solutions Center offers a series of webinars, case studies, and toolkits that provides user-friendly guidance for achieving a zero energy K-12 school building. READ MORE →
  • NBI 2019 Net Zero Schools Watchlist: This resource from the New Buildings Institute outlines. READ MORE →
  • NREL's Guide to Zero Energy K–12 Schools: Developed as part of DOE's Zero Energy Schools Accelerator (ZESA), this guide outlines 8 steps to creating a Zero Energy school. READ MORE →

    Last Updated: 08/09/2021

Generation180 has toolkits, guides, reports, and more to help your school go solar. Visit SolarForAllSchools.org for even more resources.