It’s a new year, and with that comes new laws. At the end of 2018, California solidified the decision to enact a new law that will take effect in 2020. This will require all new homes to be equipped with solar panels.
California is the first state in the country to call for solar panels to be a mandatory part of the state’s building code. The approval happened on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 following the original plan endorsed back in May 2018 by a state energy panel.
These solar-energy installations will be required on most new homes that will be built from January 1, 2020 onward, for single-family residences and multi-family residential buildings alike. The initiative is part of the change in the state’s Green Building Standards Code. There will be an exemption made for houses that are frequently shaded from the sun, which cuts down the effectiveness of the would-be panels, as well as for buildings over three stories tall.
Currently, only about 9% of single-family homes in California have solar panels; but with the state continually pushing towards greener initiatives to aid in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, their end goal is to transition to a fully renewable energy grid by 2045.
One other major incentive for the revolutionary California law is their vulnerability to natural disasters. Executive Director of the Energy Commission Drew Bohan believes that “there is [an] even greater need for homes that are efficient, reliable and resilient…with extreme weather events becoming more frequent.” From wildfires to earthquakes, the use of solar panels could have a significant positive impact on many in times of natural disaster. They would be of great assistance to those who face extended power outages from these natural disasters, and would help with emergency services’ efforts as well.
While the plan is a big step in fighting climate change, there have been some concerns about how this will affect the housing market, and ultimately the cost of buying a new home.
The mandatory solar panel installation “won’t necessarily make homes more expensive to buy,” says a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “What they will do is save money on utility costs. This is not only the right thing to do for the climate, it is financially smart.”
Yet, upfront home costs could increase by anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000—a steep swell for many. Despite this, the savings earned from these installations have the possibility to be substantial—averaging around $19,000, with a high-end of the spectrum estimate at $50,000 for extreme cases, all over a 25 to 30 year period. Energy savings will depend on location, optimization of solar panels, energy usage, cost of installation and upkeep, and numerous other factors.
While the exact statistics may still vary, the new energy-efficient homes “built under these standards are expected to use 53 percent less energy than our last standards,” according to Bohan. There are also a few different options for homeowners in regards to acquiring their solar panels. They can purchase them outright, lease them, or enter a power purchase agreement with developers.