California has approved the country’s first mandate for new homes to include solar panels, taking effect for new houses and low-rise apartment buildings in 2020, according to The Guardian.
According to Robert Raymer, the California Building Industry Association’s technical director:
“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards. You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens.”
The state’s energy commission estimates the mandate will increase the construction cost of a single-family home by about $10,000, but will save consumers even more over time in energy costs. They estimate that 117,000 single-family homes and 48,000 multi-family units will be built in 2020.
The move adds to a list of measures that have put California at the forefront of the country when it comes to clean energy and environmental efforts, including moves to promote electric vehicles, and to reduce carbon emissions from residential and commercial areas.
One member of the commission, David Hochschild, remarked that the solar panel measure “is a very bold and visionary step that we’re taking.”
The measure will still need to earn the support of California’s building standards commission. Building codes and efficiency standards are updated once every three years. Industry groups did not oppose the measure, and utility companies, and solar panel manufacturers voiced support.
However, some California Republicans cautioned against any measures that risked increasing prices in California’s already prohibitively expensive housing market.
“That’s just going to drive the cost up and make California, once again, not affordable to live,” according to Republican Assembly leader Brian Dahle.
Exceptions will be made when panels are impractical, such as for houses built in the shade, or in situations in which solar panels would not be cost-effective. While the regulation will only apply to new buildings, rebate programs are also available for homeowners who want to add solar panels.
California is the nation’s largest market for solar power, and the measure will help rooftop panels move into mainstream use, beyond the current market of well-off, environmentally conscious homeowners.
According to Morten Lund, who chairs an energy storage initiative at the law firm Stoel Rives LLP:
“Essentially, this could turn residential solar into an appliance, like a water heater. There has always been a certain inevitability about that outcome, but this is moving faster than most of us thought likely.”