California Regulator OKs Solar Panels Mandate For New Homes

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The California Energy Commission will vote on a proposal today to require all new homes and low rise apartment buildings built after 2020 to require solar panels.

While the step is significant, California has been preparing for the transition to solar energy for years, according to a spokeswoman for the state energy commission.

Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association, called it a 'quantum leap'. "No other state in the nation will have anything close to this, and you can bet 49 other states will be watching to see what happens here in California". They still need backing from the state's Building Standards Commission.

In the long-term, building more homes - soon with solar panels - could drive down living costs in the Golden State.

The California Energy Commission determined that installing a solar power system and complying with other new measures will add $9,500 to the cost of a new home, Bloomberg reported. The price of solar has dropped dramatically in recent years.

"This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the U.S. California has always 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". It came despite estimates it would raise the up-front cost of a new home by almost $10,000 in one of the most expensive parts of the country. And they include efforts to increase battery storage and increase use of electricity over natural gas.

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.

'This is a very bold and visionary step that we're taking, ' said David Hochschild, a member of the Energy Commission.

The requirement does include exceptions when solar panels aren't feasible - such as on a home shrouded in shade - or cost effective.

Builders will have the option of adding solar panels to individual homes, or building shared power systems for a group of homes. A National Association of Realtors survey for the fourth quarter of 2017 listed four California markets among the nation's five most expensive.

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