California Law Exempts Homeowners From Solar Mandate After Disaster

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Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., has signed a bill that would temporarily exempt residential buildings from California’s new solar mandate in the event of a disaster.

Last year, California voted to require solar PV panels to be installed on new low-rise residential buildings starting Jan. 1, 2020, including single-family homes and multifamily buildings of three stories or fewer.

Under A.B.178, however, homeowners would be temporarily exempted from the requirement when they must rebuild in areas damaged by a disaster and declared to be in a state of emergency.

“Many of our communities in California that have been devastated by catastrophic wildfires and floods, particularly the people of Paradise, are desperate to get their lives back on track and to rebuild their homes,” Newsom wrote in his signing message. “A.B.178 should hasten that effort by temporarily suspending the new building requirement to include solar on new home building.”

Newsom still reiterates his support for solar, however.

He adds, “I support the efforts to rebuild our communities as expediently as possible. However, I encourage all Californians – including those who are rebuilding in these communities – to strongly consider incorporating solar. Homes built with solar are more resilient to power outages, have increased value, save the homeowner more than $15,000 in energy costs over 30 years, and combat climate change by contributing to California’s clean energy economy.”

Specifically, the new law is described as follows under A.B.178:

“This bill would, until Jan. 1, 2023, specify that residential construction intended to repair, restore, or replace a residential building damaged or destroyed as a result of a disaster in an area in which a state of emergency has been proclaimed by the governor, before Jan. 1, 2020, is required to comply with the photovoltaic requirements, if any, that were in effect at the time the damaged or destroyed residential building was originally constructed and is not required to comply with any additional or conflicting photovoltaic requirements in effect at the time of repair, restoration, or replacement. The bill would provide that the above provision applies if certain requirements are met with respect to the owner’s income and insurance coverage and the location and square footage of the construction. Because a local agency would be required to determine whether those requirements are met, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”

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