California will become the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The new requirement, which was approved by a five-member California Energy Commission on Wednesday, will take effect in two years.
“You can bet every state will be watching to see what happens,” Bob Raymer, senior engineer for the California Building Industry Association, said in the public comments prior to Wednesday’s vote.
New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., have considered legislation that would ensure new buildings be solar-ready, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hawaii lawmakers have considered mandating energy efficiency measures, such as solar water heaters.
But California has been the first to approve such a move on a statewide scale. By 2020, builders will be required to make individual homes available with solar panels or build a shared solar-power system that could serve a group of homes. The rooftop panels can either be owned by the homeowner and rolled into the cost of the home, or leased on a monthly basis.
The mandate could add up to $16,000 more to the cost of a home. But homeowners’ lower energy bills will make up for the extra costs of adding solar, state officials and clean-energy advocates say. Based on a 30-year mortgage, the Energy Commission estimates that the standards will add about $40 to an average monthly payment. The commission also estimates consumers could save $80 on monthly heating, cooling, and electricity bills.
“Any additional amount in the mortgage is more than offset,” says Andrew McAllister, an Energy Commission member. “It’s good for the customer.”
California’s new mandate stems from a requirement that at least 50 percent of the state’s electricity needs to come from non-carbon producing sources by 2030. Solar power is becoming an increasingly important part in meeting that goal.