California Mandates Solar Panels on All Newly Built Homes

California is living up to its reputation as the “greenest” state once again. On May 9, it became the first state to move toward requiring new residential construction to include rooftop solar panels.

The California Energy Commission voted unanimously to enact the 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, which require:

  • Smart residential photovoltaic systems
  • Updated thermal envelope standards — to prevent heat transfer from the interior to exterior and vice versa
  • Residential and nonresidential ventilation requirements
  • Nonresidential lighting requirements

These standards will apply to all single-family residences, condominiums and apartment buildings up to three stories high that seek building permits after Jan. 1, 2020. Builders can either put solar panels on individual homes or build a shared system of panels that powers a group of homes.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

The standards must be approved later this year by the California Building Standards Commission before they can be considered final. The new requirements will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount roughly equal to removing 115,000 cars from the road, said the commission in a press release.

“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards,” Bob Raymer, California Building Industry Association technical director, told the commission before it voted. “No other state in the nation will have anything close to this — and you can bet every one of the 49 other states will be watching closely to see what happens.”

The commission estimated that for homeowners the new standards will add about $9,500 to the cost of building a new home. That’s about $40 added to an average monthly 30-year mortgage payment, but it will save consumers $80 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills.

Others estimate that the costs will be much higher. C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage Homes, told the Orange County Register that the new energy standards taken together will actually add between $25,000 and $30,000 to a home’s construction costs.

Solar panels would account for about $14,000 to $16,000 of that estimate. The other $10,000 to $15,000 comes from the need to install more energy efficient insulation, windows, lighting, heating and appliances, Herro explained.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Some worry that these added costs unfairly disadvantage those who can’t afford to install energy improvements like solar panels. They fear it only makes the affordable housing problem in California that much worse, because greater reliance on solar power will cause electricity rates to rise.

“We already have some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and this will only be exacerbated by this mandate,” Lucas Davis, associate professor at the Haas School of Business at University of California-Berkeley, told CNBC. “As more and more rooftop solar gets installed, that pushes the cost onto all the non-solar customers.”

The commission anticipates approximately 117,000 new single-family homes and 48,000 multifamily units will be built in 2020. But will they be affordable enough?

Is the move toward solar power and energy efficiency squeezing people out of the market? Will we need upper middle class incomes to even consider being able to buy a house in California?

It’s a tough balancing act. One the one hand, we want states moving toward reliance on power sources other than fossil fuels. When they do it, we applaud. However, energy efficient housing shouldn’t be so expensive that most people are priced right out of the ability to become a homeowner.

Can’t the American dream be affordable and energy efficient?

Take Action!

Sign this Care2 petition urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to support New York’s existing Clean Energy Standard by adopting the same policy as California.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.

 

Photo Credit: h080/Flickr

46 comments

Leanne K
Leanne K15 hours ago

Friends were on a cycling hokuday in Switzerland ( I know, the lunatics!) Th weather was so hot and none of the motels had air con. Obviously up til now it hasnt been needed. The entire world has to adapt.
When will we learn???

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Leanne K
Leanne K15 hours ago

That is fantastic. It what Australia needs to do! It should have happened years ago.

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H3 days ago

It seems most of the negative posts are from non-Cal posters! I am all for it and believe as Christine states the "upfront costs" would be on the loan. Solar costs are dropping and the lower PG&E or MID or TID or SMUD costs or (whoever is scalping on the power in your area) will help to pay for the payment. Californians need to cut power usage, deal the the drought (AKA climate change the repubs refuse to acknowledge but anyone who lives here can see and feel). Or on a lighter note! Use the savings on taxes that we are to be receiving on our paychecks! hehehe. In some ways, tighter mandates should be placed when it comes to matters of the environment, clean air and water. Not the bought-and-paid for EPA that is now running amuck in the US.

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Henry M
Henry M3 days ago

I almost wish I lived in California.

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Lisa M
Lisa M3 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M3 days ago

Thanks.

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Christine Stewart

the haters are whining about the additional cost- the cost is going to be paid over 30 freakin years! And the energy savings will be immediate. so stop whining about the cost!

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Cathy B
Cathy B5 days ago

Thank you.

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Winn A
Winn A5 days ago

:-)

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Winn A
Winn A5 days ago

Good

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