Under a new policy voted on by California regulators Wednesday, May 9th, solar panels will be a required feature on virtually all new homes built within the state. This puts California in the fore front of government controls over climate-warming carbon emissions once again. The California Energy Commission voted unanimously, 5-0, to recommend energy efficiency standards that are set to be added to state building regulations later this year and will become effective for all construction after January 1, 2020. These new rules will make California the first state in the nation to require solar panels on new homes.
Bernatte Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association said, “This will be nothing short of historic for our state and for our country. Her continued, “California is once again betting on the sun and putting real policy behind grand vision.”
This new requirement will apply to single family homes and to apartment and condominium complexes of three stories or less. Solar installations have become so cost effective that they are included in more than 15,000 homes built each year in California, without the state mandating it. In 2020 and beyond that number promises to increase to 80,000, the number of homes built each year in California. Findings that solar power would be cost effective in all climate zones in the state were crucial in moving this proposal forward. The average estimated cost of a solar system $9,500, or $40 a month when amortized over a 30-year mortgage. But the systems are projected to save customers an average of $80 a month on utility bills.
“It’s become more attractive to consumers,” said Kelly Knutsen, director of technology advancement for the solar industry group. “Whenever there is demand you want to meet that demand.” While building industry organizations did not try to block the new rules, they expressed their concern of driving up home prices and said they would have preferred a slower phase in of the new requirements. A leading building organization stated that they appreciated the fact that the rules would allow for smaller installations or waivers in cases in which space is limited or neighboring structures shad roof tops.
The California Building Industry Ass. also praised another part of the new regulation, which gives energy credit to homes that employ battery storage technology. The innovations “will allow the homeowner to capture the cheaper electricity produced by the rooftop solar panels during the middle of the day and keep that power on site for use in the early evening ours when electrical rates go up,” said Bob Raymer, technical director of the building association.
The solar panel rule next goes before the California Building Standards Commission, which typically adopts recommendations from the energy commission. The building group is expected to take up the matter in October or November.