California has officially become the first state to require all new homes be built with solar panels. But Republican legislative leaders said Californians can't afford to pay any more for housing in the state's already extremely expensive market. The commission estimates they would add an average $10,500 in construction costs for a single-family home but generate about $16,000 in energy savings.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the change amounts to an additional 200 megawatts of solar deployed in the state annually.
The commission also expects that by the first year of implementation, statewide annual electricity consumption will be cut by about 653 gigawatt-hours and natural gas consumption reduced by 9.8 million therms. It cited Bob Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), as saying that now 15% to 20% of new single-family homes have solar.
Meanwhile, utility companies tend to advocate for large-scale solar operations instead of rooftop power, arguing that "solar farms" allow customers to get solar power while advantages of scale reduce the cost. Now, California is taking bold leadership again, recognizing that solar should be as commonplace as the front door that welcomes you home.
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Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law, said the new rule would lower the price of solar panels nationwide as manufacturers tapped into California's huge consumer base. MORE earlier this year introduced a 30 percent tariff on solar panel technology, a move fiercely criticized by US solar companies. How much this hurts other users is disputed, and varies by location, but California's energy commission says it could conceivably cost other ratepayers money.
"Other states may not be ready for this step yet", she said. If there is battery storage installed, the size of the rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system could be smaller. "California's affordability problem is making it more and more hard for people to afford to live here".
California has a mandate for new homes to be "Net Zero Energy" - meaning they produce more energy than they consume - by 2020, and for all homes to be Net Zero by 2030.
Rachel Golden, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club's My Generation clean energy campaign, said the plan is encouraging but that the focus must include reducing gas emissions from buildings.