Solar Panels May Be Required On New California Homes

Solar Panels May Be Required On New California Homes

Homes that are in the shade and houses where the roof is too tiny to hold panels won't need to comply.

Advocates for the poor fear that the new rules passed by fiat by the California Energy Commission will only cause energy poverty to grow.

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.

Compared with solar power plants, rooftop solar is "a much more expensive way of increasing renewables on the grid", says Severin Borenstein, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared his concerns in a letter to one commissioner. It is easy to implement it in the area because of constant sunny days and high real estate prices.

California has some of the highest housing costs in the country and has a widespread housing shortage. Reflecting on the requirement, Kelly Knutsen of the trade group California Solar and Storage Association said, "This is going to be a significant increase in the solar market in California". "Other states may not be ready for this step yet, but this is a precedent-setting policy - one that will bring enormous benefits and cost savings to consumers", SEIA Chief Executive Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.

Demand for solar equipment in California could rise by 10 percent to 15 percent because of the new standards, the Energy Commission forecast in a study earlier this year.

The mandate is part of California's "Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan", which includes the goal that both residential and commercial construction be zero net energy by 2030-meaning the buildings' annual energy usage is either less than or equal to the renewable energy generated onsite.

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The report found retreating glaciers, dying trees, warming waters and devastating droughts and wildfires are tied to global warming. The requirement would only apply to newly constructed homes, although many homeowners are choosing to install solar panels with the help of rebate programs.

But this feel-good change to the building code is a questionable public policy for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.

The rules now go to the state Building Standards Commission, where they were expected to easily win approval. But it would ultimately save a homeowner about $19,000 over the span of 30 years.

The five-member California Energy Commission passed the new requirements with very little debate.

" 'Because of the lack of density, people are forced to drive everywhere".

Testifying Wednesday at the commission hearing, a representative from a coalition of major gas and electricity providers, including the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, said utility companies approved of the changes, calling them cost effective and technically feasible.

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