California Energy Commission approves requirement for solar panels on new homes

10 May, 2018, 14:26 | Author: Natasha Holloway
  • California homes may soon be equipped with solar panels

Shares of SunRun Inc. jumped almost 6% Wednesday on news that California regulators earlier Wednesday approved new building standards that will require new homes in the state to have solar panels starting in 2020, the first state to do so. It represents the state's latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the solar panels are installed in only 15-20% of the new single-family homes.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the change amounts to an additional 200 megawatts of solar deployed in the state annually.

But overall, making solar panels mandatory will be cost-effective, the report found, and is the only now feasible way for the state to fulfill its goal of making new homes produce as much power as they consume. In California's coastal communities, at least, research has found that the sharp rise in housing costs is mostly driven by rising land costs, said Issi Romem, chief economist at BuildZoom, a permit and contractor data analysis website. The mandate could require between 68 and 241 MW of annual distributed solar buildout, according to ClearView Energy Partners' research using 2017 data.

The new requirement, to take effect in two years, brings solar power into the mainstream in a way it has never been until now.

State officials and clean-energy advocates say the extra cost to home buyers will be more than made up in lower energy bills. 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".

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All of this will be for new homes and apartment buildings up to three stories.

Some new houses will be exempt if solar panels are infeasible, such as when a roof is in the shadows of another structure.

Some critics, though, question the wisdom of the transition to solar at a time when California is struggling with a dire housing crisis and skyrocketing housing costs.

California has been a leader in statewide initiatives to combat climate change, including setting aggressive goals like lowering carbon pollution to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, as well as requiring that utility companies get at least 50 percent of all electricity from renewables by the same year.

"Solar panels have been more hit or miss", Masching said. Solar systems need to be bigger - and more costly - in hotter parts of the state like the Inland Empire and the Central Valley. New Jersey and Minnesota are pursuing heightened reliance on solar power, but none have yet gone as far as the California mandate would.

As explained in a blog from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the policy, which is the first of its kind in the USA, "will combine rooftop solar panels with enough energy efficiency measures like insulation and better windows" - in turn, bringing the building to net-zero electricity.

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