Analysis of Different Methods for Computing Source Energy in the Context of Zero Energy Buildings

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Building energy consumption can only be measured at the site or at the point of utility interconnection with a building. Often, to evaluate the total energy impact, this site-based energy consumption is translated into source energy, that is, the energy at the point of fuel extraction. Consistent with this approach, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) definition of zero energy buildings uses source energy as the metric to account for energy losses from the extraction, transformation, and delivery of energy. Other organizations, as well, use source energy to characterize the energy impacts. Four methods of making the conversion from site energy to source energy were investigated in the context of the DOE definition of zero energy buildings. These methods were evaluated based on three guiding principles--improve energy efficiency, reduce and stabilize power demand, and use power from nonrenewable energy sources as efficiently as possible. This study examines relative trends between strategies as they are implemented on very low-energy buildings to achieve zero energy. A typical office building was modeled and variations to this model performed. The photovoltaic output that was required to create a zero energy building was calculated. Trends were examined with these variations to study the impacts of the calculation method on the building's ability to achieve zero energy status. The paper will highlight the different methods and give conclusions on the advantages and disadvantages of the methods studied.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2016
Event2016 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings - Pacific Grove, California
Duration: 21 Aug 201626 Aug 2016


Conference2016 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings
CityPacific Grove, California

Bibliographical note

Available from ACEEE: see

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5500-67078


  • building energy consumption
  • zero energy buildings


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