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Advanced Energy Communities

Advanced Energy Communities

ZNE Alliance has engaged diverse cities and best-in-class solution providers to develop and scale Advanced Energy Communities. Advanced Energy Communities have set ambitious goals for local clean energy development, EV deployment, and building efficiency. These initiatives lead progressively to 100% renewable energy and near-zero GHG emissions. The AEC framework is also designed to grow jobs and the economy – while advancing public health, environmental sustainability, and social equity.


The Alliance partners with state and local government, business and community leaders, and local energy providers to design, finance, and build out Advanced Energy Communities. Each AEC master plan is custom-designed to harness the unique strengths of local partners. Common project components typically include:

  • Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) Community Vision

  • Distributed Energy Resource Network Development

    • Solar

    • Energy Storage

    • Microgrids

    • Virtual Power Plants

    • DER Management Systems

  • ZNE Building and Efficiency Programs and Policies

  • EV Charging Infrastructure

  • EV Fleet Initiatives

  • EV-friendly Policies


Lancaster Advanced Energy (AEC) Project

In 2011, the City of Lancaster set a goal to become the first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) City in America – generating or procuring from 100% renewable sources as much energy as the City consumes. In 2016, the City partnered with the ZNE Alliance to accelerate progress to its 100% renewable goal, and to advance other ambitious climate and sustainability targets. The City will achieve its 100% renewable goal in 2019.


The Alliance is currently working with the City to develop and deploy:

  • A Virtual Power Plant that integrates a total of 5 MW of solar and 10 MWH of storage, lowers procurement costs for Lancaster Choice Energy (the local Community Choice Energy provider)

  • Five community microgrids

  • Flexible building and EV loads

  • Two affordable new ZNE housing subdivisions, including

    • Innovative microgrids to provide renewable backup power

    • A testbed for evaluating the performance and economics of kinetic flywheel vs. lithium ion energy storage technologies

  • Three Community Resiliency Centers that provide emergency shelter and safeguard essential services, powered by renewable microgrids

  • Three megawatt hours of energy storage at commercial sites in an innovative partnership with Lancaster Choice Energy and Engie

  • Innovative energy data management and rate design



Project Partners: 

Key project partners include: the City of Lancaster and Lancaster Choice Energy (Community Choice Energy provider), Energy Solutions (ZNE residential microgrids), Olivine (Virtual Power Plant), NHA Advisors (municipal finance), Gridscape (Microgrid design), Terra Verde Energy (solar and storage deployment), and Blue Strike Environmental (rate design and energy data management).


BSE Logo.jpg

Utility Partnership and the ZNE Solutions Pyramid: 

The Lancaster AEC Project is creating a replicable model for Zero Net Carbon community energy system development, in close partnership with Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE). The Alliance  team is working closely with LCE to deploy a comprehensive suite of ZNE solutions that include advanced data systems, innovative rate designs, and integrated DER and demand-side management programs that will lower costs for LCE and its customers.


The focus of the LCE initiatives is not just to achieve 100% renewable power, but to model optimally efficient load management and reduced cost.  This is being accomplished by helping customers shift load to lower-cost times of day with targeted deployment of customer-sited storage and smart devices – including smart thermostats, smart solar inverters, and smart EV charging stations. These technologies and strategies will help Lancaster manage its abundant solar resources -- and develop replicable models for managing a 100% renewable local utility.


The strategies developed in Lancaster will in turn be scaled through the California Choice Energy Authority – Lancaster’s sister agency which is currently expanding to serve communities throughout the Los Angeles metro region. In addition, ZNE Alliance is also working closely with other utilities, including MCE Clean Energy (serving four counties in the San Francisco Bay Area), to accelerate the transition to 100% renewable power and Zero Net Carbon emissions throughout California.


The Richmond Advanced Energy Community Project:


The City of Richmond, California (pop. 107,000) is home to the largest refinery in the western United States, a major port, and two of the busiest freeways in the region. Burdened by high toxic emissions, children in the City are hospitalized for asthma at twice the statewide rate. Nearly one fifth of Richmond residents live in poverty, and many of the 1000+ homes foreclosed during the 2009 recession have remained vacant and blighted.


To overcome these challenges, ZNE Alliance has partnered with the City to support a comprehensive revitalization focused on 100% clean energy, the transformation of abandoned homes into new ZNE infill housing, and energy efficient building retrofits. Initiated in 2016, the Richmond AEC Project is developing:

  • Three renewable microgrids located at two fire stations and a local High School

  • Distributed Energy Resource Community that includes 4.4 MW of solar PV. a megawatt of energy storage at City facilities, and a megawatt of flexible load

  • Formerly abandoned ZNE Homes (scaling to 50+ properties.) Financed by an innovative Social Impact Bond, these homes are being re-built by locally trained workers, and sold to first-time home buyers at affordable prices.

  • Energy Efficiency Benchmarking and Compliance Program that will enable 15% of local utility customers to implement an EE retrofit project over the next two years, and accelerate accomplishment of state ZNE building and EE goals.

  • EV Infrastructure: The ambitious Richmond EV charging incentive program will enable residents in apartment buildings and employees in key workplaces to access affordable charging throughout the City.

8,225 Metric Tons

Projected C02 Savings by 2030

3,491 Buildings

Buildings covered by project

1.1 MWs

Solar PV Installed

2.3 MWs

Energy Storage Installed

Richmond Project.JPG

Social Impact Bond and ZNE Housing Development

In the years since the 2008 economic crash, which was particularly severe in Richmond, hundreds of properties have remained vacant and distressed. These properties attract crime and act as a persistent drag on the City’s well-being. Beginning in 2015, the Richmond City Council took bold action to address this challenge by issuing a $3 million dollar Social Impact Bond[1] for the purpose of rehabilitating these abandoned residential properties. The Social Impact Bond is an innovative financial instrument between a public agency and a private investor which promise improved social outcomes that result in public sector savings or benefits. In Richmond, the Social Impact Bond is a partnership between the City, the nonprofit Richmond Community Foundation (RCF), and Mechanics Bank, which purchased the bond. Bond proceeds are loaned by the City to enable the Foundation to acquire and rehabilitate abandoned and distressed properties. The Social Impact Bond is paid solely from the proceeds generated from resale of the homes, with no liability for repayment on the City’s part.


These abandoned homes often require protracted legal work to clear their titles, and extensive rebuilding, and thus have not been attractive to developers or urban homesteaders. With the additional support provide by the Social Impact Bond, however, home titles are being cleared and development teams assembled to rebuid these homes in a cost-efficient manner, re-market them at affordable prices, and fully repay the Social Impact Bond. Through the combined efforts of the City, the Richmond Community Foundation, and the extended ZNE Alliance team, including Energy Solutions, we are proceeding toward a goal of restoring 40 houses in disadvantaged census tracts over five years. The program will be further expanded as the rehabilitated housing is sold.


Each of the homes in the program will be restored to a Zero Net Carbon Ready standard, including onsite solar, EV charging, and all-electric, water-saving design. The lower operating costs of the ZNC homes helps enable long-term ownership and wealth-building for the buyers. Affordability is further enhanced as residents enjoy nearby access to BART and AC Transit bus lines, reducing requirements for vehicle use. Priority for purchase of these affordable homes is provided to participants of a leading first-time home buyers program for Contra Costa County residents, known as SparkPoint.


The Social Impact Bond is the first-of-its-kind deployment of this innovative policy tool to revitalize abandoned and blighted homes, and the first major project in California targeting distressed homes for ZNE renovations.


Contact us for more information about how your city can participate in the Advanced Energy Community and ZNE City movement!


[1] Social Impact Bonds were first deployed in 2010, and have been deployed in 15 countries, raising more than $200M in investment to address social challenges. For more information, see Social Impact Bonds: The Early Years.

Social Impact Bond

Richmond Advanced Energy Community Project Partners -- led by the Richmond Community Foundation, ZNE Alliance, the City of Richmond, Energy Solutions, and Mechanics Bank -- celebrate the construction of a Zero Net Energy Home

Richmond Project Partners

Goals: In 2016, the California Energy Commission hosted a statewide competition to accelerate the development of Advanced Energy Communities that will model our transition to a low-carbon economy.  To qualify for funding, these communities are expected to progressively:

  • Achieve and maintain zero net energy community status (generating more energy from renewable sources than they consume)

  • Reduce energy transmission and distribution costs and improve grid reliability

  • Be replicated and scaled statewide to further drive down costs for renewable energy, energy storage, and efficiency technologies

  • Be financially attractive to developers, home buyers, and renters

  • Make use of smart grid technology.

Awards: ZNE Alliance is the only organization in the state to seek and win two of the highly competitive Advanced Energy Community awards, scoring #1 in the Northern California disadvantaged community category with Richmond as our partner, and #2 in the Southern California non-disadvantaged category in partnership with the City of Lancaster.

Funding: Together, the two AEC initiatives won nearly $3 million in Phase One of the program, and will be eligible for more than $10 million in additional funding as the project transitions from planning and permitting (Phase 1 / 2016-17) to full implementation (Phase 2 / 2018-2020). 

Partnership Opportunity:  The Advanced Energy Communities are the first wave of ZNE city initiatives that the Alliance will be sponsoring throughout California and beyond in the coming years. If your community is interested in become a ZNE Alliance City, contact us at or call 415 310-2407.

AEC Project Team

Beth Reid


Beth Reid



Proven leader with nearly two decades of experience in the energy industry including senior management positions. Specializes in creating and implementing customized solutions for clients in regulated and deregulated markets that incorporate both technological and non-technological components.

Valarie Nibler

Director of Project Management

val nibbler.jpg


Joe Borg




Robert Anderson



Accomplished software architect and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience delivering commercial applications and services. Leverages his distinctive talent for designing a vision and building a team that can conceive it into reality. Leads the software development and product management teams in building Olivine’s technology architecture.

Tim O'Keefe

Director of Renewables and DER


Mr. O’Keefe directs Energy Solutions’ Information Systems Department, with a focus on renewable, distributed generation, automation and information exchange for Automated Demand Response (AutoDR) programs. 

Brian Barnacle

Products and Strategy



Brett Webster

Project Manager II



Nate Dewart

Project Manager



Mark Northcross



During a California public finance career that spans back to 1981, Mark Northcross has structured debt for nearly every kind of issuer and nearly every kind of revenue source legally available in the State.

Has negotiated the restructuring and workout of nearly $200 million in either defaulted or highly stressed municipal bond issues. He is also a leader in negotiating joint ventures between different public agencies.

Adam Lenz

Environmental Manager



Energy Project Coordinator

Kathy Wells


Cathy DeFalco

Executive Director


Cathy DeFalco is the Executive Director of Lancaster Choice Energy. In this role, Ms. DeFalco is responsible for managing power procurement, and has oversight of load forecasting and compliance filings with the CPUC, CAISO, and CEC. In addition,Ms. DeFalco represents Lancaster Choice Energy at various proceedings advocating on behalf of LCE, ratepayers, and community choice programs on a range of regulatory and legislative issues.

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