The California Energy Commission voted Wednesday to require solar panels on almost all new homes built after January 1, 2020. The unanimous approval was supported by homebuilder and solar trade associations.
The mandate is part of California's Governor Jerry Brown's efforts to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The new policy applies to single-family houses and multifamily units that are three stories or less, with some exceptions for homes built in areas that get too much shade due to trees or nearby structures.
“This is massive,” said Morten Lund, chair of an energy storage initiative at law firm Stoel Rives LLP. “Essentially, this could turn residential solar into an appliance, like a water heater."
“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards,” Bob Raymer, senior engineer of the California Building Industry Association, according to Bloomberg.com. "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."
Critics say the new requirement will add $10,000 to the cost of a new single family home and be a burden for smaller builders. CNBC reports the mandate could affect the state's affordable housing shortage due to the upfront installation costs for both builders and owners. In January, President Trump placed tariffs on imported solar equipment, eliminating overseas sources of less expensive solar systems for the next four years.
The California Building Industry Association estimates only 15 to 20 percent of the single-family homes built in California have solar panel installations. At least seven cities in the state already have solar mandates of one form or another on new buildings, including San Francisco.
CNBC reports the mandate could negatively affect the state's affordable housing shortage due to the upfront installation costs for both builders and owners, but could cut the use of traditionally generated electric power by 50 percent.
Read more about what some are calling California's historic new plan here: