California approves measure to require solar on new homes after 2020

ImageAn array of solar panels in Oakland Calif. Solar power provides almost 16 percent of the state’s

ImageAn array of solar panels in Oakland Calif. Solar power provides almost 16 percent of the state’s

Long a leader and trendsetter in its clean-energy goals, California took a giant step on Wednesday, becoming the first state to require all new homes to have solar power.

About 117,000 new single-family homes and 48,000 multi-family units will be built in 2020, the commission estimates.

"Better insulation and windows required by the 2020 code, combined with solar panels, will reduce energy use in single-family homes by a whopping 53 percent compared to current code", the NRDC says.

SEIA's Hopper notes that although other states "may not be ready for this step yet", California's decision is a "precedent-setting policy - one that will bring enormous benefits and cost-savings to consumers".

The new requirement will be official after the Energy Commission, whose members voted unanimously for the change, gains the support of the state's Building Standards Commission.

California is on track to require solar panels on all new homes. Last year, the California Association of Realtors released a report saying that about 70 percent of the state couldn't afford the median home price of more than $550,000.

The rule will go into effect on January 1, 2020, and does not need to be approved by the Legislature or the California Public Utilities Commission.

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They calculate that a 30-year mortgage would face an increase of about $40 in average monthly payments, but residents would save $80 dollars on heating, cooling and lighting bills every month. They thanked the commission for involving the building industry in the drafting process.

But the upfront costs of solar panels of $10,000 or more, could be hard to cover for first-time homebuyers. The commission's analysis says the solar panel mandate will have "notably less impact on the housing market than 4-6 months of normal median family home price inflation". That's more than double the cost of utility-scale solar systems, which range from 4.4 to 6.6 cents.

Already, the news has been a boon for solar developers such as Sunrun, Vivint Solar and First Solar.

The requirement would apply only to newly constructed homes, although many homeowners are choosing to install rooftop solar panels with the help of rebate programs.

Some buildings will be eligible for exemptions from the requirement, including those shaded by trees or with roofs too small to accommodate a solar photovoltaic system.

The state's building sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions when fossil fuels power plants are factored in. A National Association of Realtors survey for the fourth quarter of 2017 listed four California markets among the nation's five most expensive.

"By adopting this policy we can expand solar power throughout California, which is more crucial than ever as Donald Trump and the federal administration try to reverse all the progress we have made to combat climate change", said Wiener in a statement.

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