Today, as expected, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved a new policy to require nearly all new homes built in the state to incorporate solar beginning in January 2020.
The CEC voted today to adopt the policy as part of the state’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards, adopted into the California Code of Regulations. The Solar Industry Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says the CEC worked with the group, its member solar companies and other stakeholders for more than two years to develop the technical requirements.
“This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the U.S.,” states Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “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. Now, California is taking bold leadership again, recognizing that solar should be as commonplace as the front door that welcomes you home.”
As explained in a blog from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the policy, which is the first of its kind in the U.S., “will combine rooftop solar panels with enough energy efficiency measures like insulation and better windows” – in turn, bringing the building to net-zero electricity. NRDC says the code will apply to single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings, but there will be exemptions for homes “truly not suitable for solar,” such as large buildings or those blocked by trees. In addition, residents can also sign up for community solar.
“Better insulation and windows required by the 2020 code, combined with solar panels, will reduce energy use in single-family homes by a whopping 53 percent compared to current code,” the NRDC says.
According to Bloomberg, shares of both Sunrun and SunPower rose 3.8% and 1.4%, respectively, as of 3:40 p.m. EST, but on the other hand, home-building company KB Home, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, saw a 5.2% drop.
Indeed, according to estimates from the CEC, the standards could up the cost of constructing a new home by roughly $9,500. However, the standards could provide $19,000 in savings in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years, the commission says.
Furthermore, the CEC estimates that for residential homeowners, the standards could add an additional $40 to an average monthly payment (based on a 30-year mortgage). However, residents could save $80 each month on heating, cooling and lighting bills, according to the commission.
Naturally, solar companies and other clean energy groups are applauding the landmark decision, which also encourages the installation of energy storage.
“California continues to put forth groundbreaking policies that support renewable energy and help lay the foundation for a better, more resilient and robust distributed energy infrastructure – especially when paired with battery storage,” comments William J. (John) Berger, CEO of solar and energy storage provider Sunnova. “This solar decision could be yet another win for America’s energy independence.”
He adds, “Distributed energy is the path forward, and this decision is set to become an inflection point in our country’s energy history.”
“California has long been home to pioneering solar policies, and we applaud today’s decision to require solar power on all new homes,” says Michelle Kinman, clean energy and transportation program director for Environment California Research & Policy Center. “At this point, any new home or building constructed without solar power is a missed opportunity to capture clean energy from the sun and move California to a 100 percent clean energy future.”
Rachel Golden, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign, notes, “Buildings are a major consumer of gas and are among the top emitters of climate-altering pollution in the state. Today’s decision will be critical in achieving our state’s climate goals. Plus, it will create long-term savings for families, schools and business owners.”
SEIA’s Hopper notes that although other states “may not be ready for this step yet,” California’s decision is a “precedent-setting policy – one that will bring enormous benefits and cost-savings to consumers.”
“It is my hope and belief that when other states, many of which are developing rapidly growing solar markets of their own,” she continues, “see the benefits of this policy, they will develop similarly aggressive policies.”
The NRDC notes that the policy must still be approved by the state’s Buildings Standards Commission, which will take up the proposal in December.