Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Sacrameno, CA, United States (4E) – Starting Jan. 1, 2020, California will require solar panels on most new homes as provided for by the state’s new building code.
The building code is the first of its kind in the country, and may induce other states to follow suit. It was approved Dec. 4 by the California Building Standards Commission.
The action by the commission came in a unanimous 8-0 vote. The code makes California the first state in the union to require solar-energy installations on most single-family homes. Also covered by the new code are multi-family residential buildings up to three stories, condos and apartment complexes.
The solar panels requirement is expected to add on average about $9,500 to the cost of new houses. This much higher cost is projected to be offset by about $19,000 in energy savings over a 30-year period, claims the California Energy Commission.
California has estimated solar standards applying to most homes and many commercial structures could save California residents and businesses millions of dollars in energy costs.
“Today’s unanimous vote was the culmination of more than two years of work by SEIA (Solar Energies Industries Association), it’s partner organizations and of course policy makers in the Golden State,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for SEIA, a trade association of the solar energy industry.
“We hope other states will look at what California has done and consider similar policies to encourage clean and low cost solar energy.”
California Energy Commission Executive Director Drew Bohan said while per capita electricity consumption in the U.S. has increased steadily over the last 40 years, California’s per capita consumption has remained flat, due in large measure to building and appliance efficiency standards.
“The new standards presented today will guide the construction of buildings that will continue to keep costs down, better withstand the impacts of climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The approved standards still allow new home construction to continue with some natural gas but the state is pushing to reduce gas need over time and facilitate a shift to high-efficiency electric appliances, such as heat pump water heaters.
“These highly energy efficient and solar-powered homes will save families money on their energy bills from the moment they walk through their front door,” said Kelly Knutsen, director of technology advancement for the California Solar and Storage Association, an industry trade group. “Homebuyers will also have a solar plus storage option, allowing their home-grown clean energy to work for them day and night.”
The California Building Industry Association estimates that only 15 to 20 percent of the single-family homes built in California have solar panel installations. At least seven cities, including San Francisco, already have solar mandates of one form or another on new buildings.
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