CA Officials Pass Solar Panel Mandate

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2018

Last week, the California Energy Commission unanimously approved a mandate that will require most new homes to have rooftop solar panels, making it the first state in the nation to have such a rule.

CNBC reported that move was praised by those in the solar industry, as well as homebuilders, but some fear that the rise in upfront costs of home construction will have a negative impact.

"This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the U.S.," said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade association with about 1,000 member companies. "California has long been our nation's biggest solar champion, and its mass adoption of solar has generated huge economic and environmental benefits, including bringing tens of billions of dollars of investment into the state."

The Rule

The mandate calls for solar-energy installation on most single-family homes, and most multi-family residential buildings that are up to three stories.

The ruling includes compliance credits for the installation of battery storage, meaning homeowners with the systems can capture their own electricity and store it.

Exemptions are available for buildings under a certain amount of shade, or those that have insufficient space for a solar installation.

Bob Raymer, the technical director for the California Building Industry Association, said that state regulators are working with buildings to reduce overall costs and provide design flexibility. That cooperation, he said, was key to getting the industry on board with such regulations.

The Costs

The commission estimates that the mandate will add an average of $9,500 to the upfront cost of a single-family home, and also estimated that the savings in energy costs over a 30-year period could reach around $19,000.

The commission also calculated that the standards will add about $40 to an average monthly mortgage (over 30 years), but at the same time, estimated about an $80 savings on monthly utility bills.

This is partially because California’s energy costs are so high—among the top in the nation—and it’s also one of the reasons why skeptics have major concerns about the mandate and how it will impact the lower class.

The Reaction

"You don't need a mandate here—we already have vast amounts of solar in California," said Lucas Davis, an associate professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. "Half of U.S. solar is installed in California, so it's not at all clear to me you needed the mandate. We're actually paying other states to take our electricity during daylight hours."

Davis goes on to note that the affordable housing crisis is a prominent problem in California, and that the extra $10,000 could make or break some people from getting a loan.

He also says that the electricity rates are bound to rise even more because of the mandate, resulting in a cost shift for homeowners who will have to pay those higher bills.

"For housing to be affordable, it's not just upfront costs, but it's ongoing operating costs," said Rachel Golden, a senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club.

While California does encompass half the solar market in the country, officials say that only about 20 percent of new homes are fitted for solar panels. The jump to 100 percent puts California on its way to achieving its goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

This equates to an emissions reduction of 180 million metric tons. This mandate alone will slash 1.4 million metric tons over three years.


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Government; Laws and litigation; North America; Residential Construction; Solar; Solar energy

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