The Oakland EcoBlock - A Zero Net Energy, Low Water Use Retrofit Neighborhood Demonstration Project

Analyzing a block-scale retrofit concept for accelerating the deployment of Advanced Energy Communities

The Regents of the University of California, Berkeley Campus


Berkeley, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

The project team completed a Community-Scale Zero Net Energy Retrofit Master Plan that includes 27 houses and 2 multi-family buildings in Oakland. The plan features a DC solar, storage, EV microgrid; energy efficiency retrofits; hybrid AC/DC homes; and a house scale water efficiency systems. The planned systems are estimated to reduce block-wide CO2 emissions by about 65 percent, with near zero net energy reduction at the house scale. The project also identified Community Facilities Districts (CFD) as a viable mechanism for residents to collectively finance communal energy and water installations—both upfront capital and ongoing O&M costs—via assessments on property tax bills. The City of Oakland is using the results of this project to examine any needed changes to its planning or permitting policies to accommodate block-scale DER developments such as the EcoBlock.

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The Issue

In order for California to meet its ambitious energy goals, cost-effective retrofit strategies must be found for the state's existing housing stock. Advanced Energy Community (AEC) developments that deploy a wide mix of clean energy technologies on a medium-to-large scale offer a way to retrofit entire communities, rather than on a building-by-building scale. However, community-scale energy retrofits are untested and models for governing and financing the energy systems are not established. Additionally, local governments, developers, and other stakeholders do not have standards for planning, permitting, and funding these types of developments, making their realization difficult.

Project Innovation

This project developed a model for a residential block-scale retrofit development of an integrated energy system combining energy efficiency, renewable generation, and water conservation technologies, called the EcoBlock. The development of the energy and water system components of the model served as a case study to analyze different owner-operator, and financing structures that may be applicable to a residential community. This case study can help transform the EcoBlock model from a one-off demonstration to a sustainable and replicable model for the entire state. The City of Oakland will also use the EcoBlock model to develop new planning and permitting processes that can lower the time and cost of similar block-scale developments throughout the city.

Project Benefits

SB 350 (De Leon, 2015) sets a 50 percent renewable energy standard and a goal of doubling energy efficiency savings by 2030. Deploying customer-side of the meter technologies at scale will help meet this goal, but will require new innovations to how local jurisdictions design, plan, finance, and manage energy upgrades at the community level. This project is developing sustainable financing structures, clear owner-operator responsibilities, and streamlined planning and permitting processes, which are critical to successfully deploying community-scale energy retrofits throughout the state.

Consumer Appeal

Consumer Appeal

Greater deployment of AECs will increase consumer familiarity and comfort with ZNE homes and communities, increasing the likelihood of consumers choosing to live in an AEC.

Lower Costs


Streamlined planning and permitting, as well as new financial models will lower the time and capital costs associated with AEC developments. This will make AECs more affordable for both developers and consumers.

Economic Development

Economic Development

Increased AEC deployments can lead to increased demand in clean energy technologies and services resulting in broad economic benefits to the clean energy sector.

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