The California Energy Commission voted in a unanimous 5-0 vote on Wednesday to change energy efficiency standards on newly constructed homes. These new standards will require all new homes to have solar panels installed on them, effective January 2020. It is a huge step for California, which is already a leader in green energy, and has been praised as a giant step in California's efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.
These new requirements may increase the prices on new homes in an already pricey market, but should save new home buyers overall. The new requirements are projected to cost new home buyers an extra $40 a month on their mortgage payment, but save them double that in energy costs. This means an overall benefit to home buyers, if they can handle the initial purchase or rental of solar panels.
Adding solar panels to all new homes, and all condominiums and apartments three stories or smaller, is not just a step towards efficiency, but also California's ambitious climate change goals. In 2017, state legislation was passed requiring California to cut its greenhouse emissions as much as 40% by 2030. This ambitious goal will be greatly helped by the new requirements.
The requirements received remarkably little opposition from the building industry group which was present during the vote. The change has been expected from them for a long time, and their only negative comment was that they wished for a longer time to implement the new regulations. When asked for their opinions, the vast majority of builders and their representatives expressed their support for the new regulations.
The lack of protest most likely stems from the affordability of solar panels in California. Right now it is so cost effective compared to traditional electric, over 15,000 home owners choose solar panels as an option for their new homes anyway. As it is, California now produces so much wind and solar panel, they often have to cease production or give away energy to other states to avoid overloading the grid. Some people are concerned that requiring solar on every new home will strain the grid farther, but others see the choice as simply turning solar into an appliance rather than a utility.
Only time will tell whether or not California's efforts will be successful or not. If the new requirements end up being a boon to the economy as many people predict, California's new building requirements will serve as a model for other states to follow. Should it fail or have other problems, other states will see it and think carefully before proceeding down the same path.
Most Californian's seem to agree with the new requirements, and are happy to embrace these changes, but they still have another trial ahead of them. In order to become permanent, they need to get a final approval from California’s Building Standards Commission. It is expected to be up for review in November, and is expected to be approved and adopted into the state's building codes.