California to Require Solar Panels on New Homes

On May 9, the California Energy Commission unanimously voted to require all new homes built after January 1, 2020, to feature solar panels. California has long been at the forefront of clean energy, helping lead the way for alternative fuel use in fleet vehicles and offering more electric recharge options for hybrid and full-electric vehicle owners. This latest move has alternative energy advocates cheering and utilities providers biting their nails.

Those applauding this move say it’s the first big step in getting homes off the utility grid to drive down costs for solar in the wake of tariffs on imported solar components and help reduce the dependence on traditional fossil fuels throughout the state. Analysts estimate a variety of environmental benefits, including:

Cutting fossil fuel emissions by approximately 1.4 million metric tons over three years.
Reduced energy costs for homeowners, allowing them to power their homes on less than approximately $50 dollars every month.

Detractors of the solar mandate claim it will only make things more expensive. Aside from issues with current solar production and estimated installation costs, there is concern over who will be left to pay for traditional energy. Many large fossil fuel power plants are designed to earn a fixed rate of return, regardless of the demand on the grid. This means the more houses defecting from the grid in favor of solar energy, the more costs are passed on to those remaining on the grid.Some other concerns include:

Production of more solar energy than the state can consume, forcing caps on incoming energy from solar farms and outside states.
Hikes in new home costs of $10,000, which something that doesn’t bode well for a state rife with housing affordability and homelessness issues.

Analysts sitting in the middle of the debate applaud the attempts at reducing dependence on traditional energy sources, but argue that the biggest factor in greenhouse gas emissions is all the cars that Californians drive. In order to make a meaningful, cost-effective dent in the state’s energy crisis, the focus should be aimed at alternative transportation options and building housing within proximity of businesses to reduce traditional vehicle use.

As with most aspects of alternative fuels, California will be a guinea pig for several states that are looking for ways to combat their own energy issues. Hawaii has state-mandate solar water heaters, while other states are considering legislation to require new buildings be “solar-ready” for eventual application. The new home solar requirements are likely to be lauded by those that can afford them, but likely to cause dissent from those that have to pick up the tab for homes coming off the grid. How do you think this solar mandate will change California’s energy consumption habits? Will it spread to other states? Let us know in the comments below.

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