Solar Mandate Takes Effect in California

Starting Jan. 1, all newly constructed homes and low-rise apartment buildings in California are required to have rooftop solar panels. The state is the first in the nation to carry such a mandate.

The law also requires better insulation and air filtration for new homes. Some areas also are seeing mandates on the use of natural gas. For example, in the Bay Area, new homes in Berkeley, San Mateo, Menlo Park, San Jose, or Marin County will not be able to install gas appliances or will have to be more energy-efficient to do so.

The rules for energy use are intended to help alleviate the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The new laws apply only to newly constructed homes.

To comply, some home builders are buying rooftop panels to install or leasing them from solar providers. Some developers of new-home communities are also hoping the state energy commission will approve fulfilling the solar requirement with community panels, a collection of panels that can provide energy to several homes.

The California Energy Commission estimates that the solar mandate and additional building code changes could add $9,500 per home in construction costs. However, they say the changes will save homeowners $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years.

The California Building Industry Association estimates the new mandates will add between $8,000 to $13,500 to the price of a new-construction home. It says the costs will be passed on to home buyers.

The California Energy Commission says that 26% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. “There’s no way to meet carbon or clean energy goals without electrifying the building sector,” Panama Bartholomy, director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition.

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