California Just Made History With a Ruling on Compulsory Solar Panels

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission approved a set of standards that will require most new homes built in the state after 2020 to include solar panels on their roofs.

The California Energy Commission estimates that the average single-family homeowner soaking up solar would almost double their investment in long-term energy bill savings, raking in more than $19,000 in energy costs over a 30 year period, as Reuters reported.

The commission projects that more than 100,000 single-family homes and nearly 50,000 multi-family buildings will be built across the state in 2020.

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

There are still significant upfront costs of requiring the solar panels on rooftops of new homes.

The new rule in California would cover all low-rise residential buildings, although houses that are frequently in the shade are exempt. Such an objective would have required that all new homes built after 2020 produce as much energy as the household would have consumed.

"Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide buildings standards", said Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association.

While California will become the first state with a solar requirement, several of its cities have already enacted similar laws.

"Under these new standards, buildings will perform better than ever, at the same time they contribute to a reliable grid", said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, who is the Energy Commission's lead on energy efficiency. "This solar decision could be yet another win for America's energy independence".

The regulation is the culmination of 10 years' worth of consultations between state regulators and industry groups such as California Building Industry Association, which apparently deemed the mandate inevitable and generally supported it in its final form.

This poses a problem for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, which aims to provide more affordable housing to people in need.

"The homeowner pays a small fee to lease the equipment but receives the benefit on their monthly utility bill", Beck told CNN.

The state's building sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions when fossil fuels power plants are factored in. "While we have programs to increase the use of renewable energy and reduce our reliance on gas plants, we do not have policies in place to replace gas use in buildings with available high-efficiency electric technologies that can be powered by clean energy".

  • David Armstrong