California goes solar. In a landmark move, the state is now requiring solar panels on all new residences and low-rise apartment buildings beginning in 2020.
California Energy Commission unanimously approved the new building standard on Wednesday, May 9.
The Golden State becomes the first in the United States to push this type of mandate, highlighting their commitment to curbing the state's contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.
California Takes A Major Step
According to a report from ABC News, the five members of the California Energy Commission voted unanimously in favor of the new standard. It would have to go through final approval from the California Building Standards Commission.
Not only are solar panels a good step in fostering a more environment-friendly household, but it's also a wallet-friendly choice. Solar panels will set a family back $9,500 in additional construction costs, but the report explains that it's a more affordable option in the long run. With solar panels, a household's energy and related bills are expected to drop by $19,000, according to estimates from the Energy Commission.
"This is a step, a very important step, in a long trajectory that we have been planning for and telling the world," Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister says in ABC News. "This is not a radical departure — it's a step in the right direction to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and improve our air, which for many, many decades California has been doing better and better each time."
The state is pushing for zero-net energy, aiming for new residential buildings to only produce as much energy as they consume by 2020.
The New Standard
California is already the United States leading market for solar installation with over 5 million homes using solar power. This new building regulations, despite only applying to newly constructed homes, is set to bolster those numbers even more.
In 2020 alone, 117,000 new single-family homes and 48,000 multi-family units are estimated to be constructed.
However, the minimum solar power required by the new building standard is not enough to power most houses completely, so the residences would still have to be connected to the power grid.
Exceptions will be afforded when solar energy is not feasible like when a home is in a shaded area, while community-shared solar generation equipment will also be offered.
To foster affordability, State Senator Scott Wiener says that residents will get the option of leasing the solar panels.
"You can have a third party come in and install and maintain those solar panels," he explains. "So they end up paying for themselves over time."
Representatives from different industries helped the commission develop the regulations.
Critics Weigh In
Despite the benefits of turning to solar energy, not everyone is happy about the costs it will entail.
Republican legislative leaders are particularly outspoken, pointing out that the new standards will incur additional costs to an already expensive state to live in.
Alex Steffen, a writer on sustainability and urban planning, tells KBCC that California's biggest greenhouse gas problem is emissions from transportation, which is 40 percent of the total and double of electricity's contributions.
Additionally, a representative from the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute expressed some concern in late changes in the regulations that reportedly affects high efficiency air filters and water heaters, according to KQED.
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