All New Homes in California Must Now Have Solar Power

By 2020, all new homes in California will require solar power, making the Golden State the first in the country to mandate such a regulation. The new requirement was recently approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC).

California home builders will be required to construct homes that meet solar panel regulations by 2020, referred to as the Title 24 rules, including equipping individual homes with solar panels or shared solar power systems to service groups of homes.

California already leads all states in terms of solar power with 19.8 gigawatts of capacity already built. The Golden State also has some of the world’s largest solar plants.

Homeowners will have the option to own the rooftop panels, have the costs included in the purchase price of the home, or lease the system. It’s estimated that about 100,000 customers per year will be a part of these unique home transactions when the rule takes effect in 2010, compared to about 15,000 today. 

An important factor in regards to the new standards is the assurance that such improved efficiency would be affordable for all homebuyers. While such a regulation would make buying a home more expensive upfront, the systems will likely help homeowners recoup these costs given the lower utility bills as a result of increased energy efficiency.

The CEC calculated that homeowners would spend an average of $40 more per month for solar paneled homes, but would save an average of $80 on monthly utility bills. Homeowners will also have the benefit of knowing that they are reducing their carbon footprint on the planet.

Housing affordability has been a serious issue in California, and the new standards are expected to help alleviate it to some degree. While lower mortgage payments can help somewhat, it’s also important to help homeowners be able to comfortably afford the bills associated with owning and operating a home.

Leasing solar panels, in particular, can help homeowners realize savings on their energy bills without upfront costs associated with outright purchasing the systems.

California officials have already established a goal to develop clean energy in the state by ensuring that a minimum of 50% of the electricity generated comes from sources that don’t produce carbon by 2030. Requiring that new homes are powered by solar panels will help approach that goal, which is estimated to save Californians approximately $1.7 billion in energy costs over the next three decades.

California’s “net-zero energy” mandate aims to have all new homes producing more energy than they use by 2020. The same goal is in effect for new commercial buildings by 2030. However, this mandate only considers electricity and does not factor in gas that is used in homes and commercial buildings. Since gas consumption makes up approximately 40% of emissions in residential properties, “net-zero” can be considered somewhat inaccurate.

The new rules will be applied specifically to all new homes as well as significant home improvements on buildings with fewer than three stories, starting January 1st, 2020. Should a particular building not be suitable for rooftop solar panels, there should at least be some access to solar power in the community. Some homes may be exempt from this regulation altogether.

The new home building standards will also provide homeowners with a solar capacity credit in addition to on-site energy storage. Right now, the standards only provide a solar-only credit.

Environmental enthusiasts are excited about the news and are optimistic about how such a new mandate may have a positive effect on fighting climate change. It’s only a matter of time before other states will follow suit, with Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey already considering similar legislation.