California Energy Commission to vote on solar-required home building

State officials to vote today on requiring solar for all new homes by 2020

On May 9, the California Energy Commission will vote regarding a law which would mandate all new residential buildings to have solar panels by 2020.

In addition to the solar requirement, the new building standards will offer a credit for solar capacity combined with on-site energy storage.

The proposal before the commission seems to address one of the state's most pressing issues - reducing greenhouse gas emissions - while exacerbating, at least in the short run, another: the increasingly high cost of housing.

"We think it's another example of California policy preceding what will happen in other markets", Tom Werner, chief executive of San Jose-based solar company SunPower, said in an interview ahead of the decision.

CEC gave its unanimous support to the plan that is meant to cut energy use in new homes by more than 50%, and thus became the first state in the USA to make this move.

Compared with solar power plants, rooftop solar is "a much more expensive way of increasing renewables on the grid", says Severin Borenstein, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared his concerns in a letter to one commissioner. The vote will be carried out by The California Energy Commission. Requiring solar arrays on new structures would advance that goal.

The state updates its building codes, including energy efficiency standards, once every three years.

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.

Of course, adding a solar requirement to new homes will increase the cost of a new home in a state where cost of living is already high.

There are still significant upfront costs of requiring the solar panels on rooftops of new homes.

"The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy", he added. Use of batteries to store solar energy will be crucial to cost savings, Raymer said.

California is already the nation's No. 1 market for solar installation.

"I like solar. I just don't like the state mandating it", said Joe Durocher. Others might place more value on spending that $10,500 today on a pressing necessity rather than putting it into some sort of state-mandated solar savings account.

"By adopting this policy we can expand solar power throughout California, which is more crucial than ever as Donald Trump and the federal administration try to reverse all the progress we have made to combat climate change", said Wiener in a statement.

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