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California may require solar panels on all new homes

California may require solar panels on all new homes

California becomes the first USA state to require solar panels on almost all new homes built after January 1, 2020, as part of new energy efficiency standards adopted by the California Energy Commission.

Critics said the new measures will drive up the cost of building new homes by almost $10,000, in a state already facing a housing crisis and soaring construction costs.

The mandate still requires approval from the Building Standards Commission.

The California Energy Commission unanimously approved the plan, making it the state's next big step towards ending greenhouse gas emissions. The commission estimates that 117,000 single family homes and 48,000 multi-family units will be constructed in California in 2020.

The rules focus on smart residential PV systems, updated thermal envelope standards, residential and non-residential ventilation requirements and non-residential lighting stipulations.

Before the mandate, about 15,000 new homes are built in California each year with solar installations.

The California Building Industry Association, which represents new homebuilders, has expressed reservations about the new rules, saying it wished the state would have postponed the regulations for two years. Several cities, including San Francisco and South Miami, Fla., have residential solar panel requirements.

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Builders will have the option of adding solar panels to individual homes, or building shared power systems for a group of homes.

The Santa Maria-based company installs solar panels and is expecting to likely see its business benefit with the new rule. It painted the solar requirement as a major step toward lowering utility bills and ridding California of "gas-guzzling homes".

If approved as expected, the vote by the five-member California Energy Commission will trigger a huge increase in solar installations.

"I can't over state how strongly I feel about normalizing the solar experience so it feels less risky to the consumer", said Ross Hopper.

Officials in St. Petersburg, Florida, made a similar argument when they were mulling their own solar mandate a year ago, with City Councilman Kevin Nurse telling Reason, "You can create a system that provides local jobs, reduces fossil fuel use and pollution, and reduces the cost of owning a home". The current standards offer a solar-only credit, allowing for a trade off between solar power and energy efficiency.

But Commissioner Andrew McCallister says money would come back through monthly utility bills. In the alternative, a homebuilder told the Orange County Register that the additional costs in play would make homes less affordable for many buyers.

California has pursued a wide-ranging list of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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