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California Moves Forward With Plan To Require Solar Panels On New Homes

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A proposal has been approved by a state board in California requiring new homes to have solar panels installed. The state of California hopes that the measure will help meet its goals of drastically reducing greenhouse emissions. While this measure will result in an increase in the cost of new construction, it will provide savings on overall utilities. The measure is slated to take effect in 2020. 

solar California has long been one of the leaders in implementing environmentally responsible policy and regulations, and it will continue this legacy by being the first state in the nation to implement such a requirement. This new rule will apply to all low-rise residential buildings, and will only apply to new construction. Homes that are located in areas of frequent shade will be exempt. Several cities in the nation, including San Francisco and South Miami, FL, already require residential solar panels on all new construction, and so far, it has made a positive impact in their energy footprint.

While the California Energy Commission has approved the regulation, the Building Standards Commission still needs to approve, as reported by the Associated Press. The measure has thus far received support from a variety of industrial groups. The AP reported “Representatives from construction groups, public utilities and solar manufacturers all spoke in support of the plan, which they’ve helped the commission develop for years.” However, Republican leaders within the California Legislature have argued that Californians are struggling to afford to pay more in the already extremely expensive housing market.

A report published by the California Energy Commission states that the measure will have an average upfront cost of $9,365 for all new homes. While the long term savings in utilities will help balance out this cost, the higher price point will have detrimental effects on developers, home buyers, and real estate agents. In addition, due to the way that California calculates electric bills, an increase in the number of solar panels could result in other residents utilities bills going up. According to the California Energy Commission, this could result in an increase cost of $65 per customer per year.

However, the report concluded that the new regulations will be cost-effective in the long run. It states that this measure will be the only sure way for California to hit its target of constructing homes that are capable of producing as much energy as they consume.

According to the state energy commission, California has been preparing for mandatory solar panels for years. Spokeswoman April Beck started “Making California homes more energy-efficient is part of a broader initiative to shrink the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Electricity consumed by residential and commercial buildings is responsible for 14 percent of the state’s greenhouse pollutants, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.”

Despite this, others argue that requiring solar panels on homes is simply just a temporary solution to reducing pollution and energy consumption. Alex Steffen, a futurist who writes about sustainability, says  “Because of the lack of density, people are forced to drive everywhere. You need a car. Until we tackle that problem, doing things like requiring solar panels on new construction is a band aid.”

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