Photo: Michael Noble Jr. / The Chronicle 201
California could soon become the first state in the country to demand that virtually every new home be equipped with solar panels.
The Californian Energy Commission on Wednesday It is expected that solar panels will be commissioned for almost all new single-family homes built after January 1, 2020, as part of the state's fight against global warming. The rule would also apply to new apartment buildings that are up to three stories high.
The proposal, which was still in preparation, would boost the country's solar industry, which lost jobs after years of rapid growth. It would also approach California's long-cherished goal of building "zero-energy buildings" that will produce as much electricity as they consume over the course of a year.
But the solar demand would have its price.
Along with harsh new efficiency standards for windows and insulation, which the commission will consider on Wednesday, the solar mandate is estimated to contribute $ 10,538 to the cost of building a house. The additional costs would come at a time when California is experiencing a severe and worsening housing equity crisis.
The relatives of the move insist that the solar houses would save their owners money by reducing monthly electricity bills. According to the Commission, this saving could amount to $ 16,251 over the 30-year life of the house.
"We do not minimize the cost of housing in the state – everyone recognizes that this is a problem," said Andrew McAllister, one of the five voting members of the Energy Commission. "Their cash flow position will improve with the addition of solar, which will not make it worse."
Although contractors were concerned about the move, Bob Raymer of the California Building Industry Association said the commission had the new one Regulation given enough flexibility to get it up and running – for example, if the roof is too small or shaded, the builder can compensate through energy efficiency measures in the house. And he agreed that the energy savings for the new solar homes would outweigh the costs.
"We will be able to look the homebuyer in the eye and say, 'You will get your money back,' said Raymer, the group's technical director.
California first began using it in the 1970s to introduce new home energy efficiency standards and gradually increase them over time, which has meant that the country's per capita electricity demand has remained largely stable, even as it grew elsewhere in the country.
The Fight Against global warming gave these standards a new urgency, and in 2007 both the Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission set a noncommittal target for all new residential buildings to have zero energy by 2020.
In the same year, the state initiated solar financial incentives for both new homes and owners of existing homes, but the state's solar market was still in its infancy Stadium, and it was not clear if or how California could reach its zero-energy goal.
"If you think of the context 10 or 12 years ago, it was so much different," McAllister said. "Solar was not an everyday business, well, now it is."
About 20 percent of California's new homes are built with solar panels on the roof, Raymer said. And prices have fallen as the solar industry has matured, both in California and around the world.
The nationwide average cost of a new condominium has fallen by more than half since 2007, according to the annual "Tracking the Sun" survey by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In California, the median price in 2016 reached $ 4.3 per watt, the last year for which data is available. For a 3 kilowatt system, this adds up to $ 12,900.
The Californian solar industry experienced a rougher year in 2017, when the rainy season was longer than usual and government changes in legislation for the first time slowed both new solar systems and jobs. Some 86,400 Californians worked in solar energy last year, 13 percent less than in 2016.
In January, President Trump set another setback for the industry by charging temporary tariffs on imported solar panels that drive up the installed price of new solar arrays unless installers find ways to cut their own operating costs.
McAllister said the commission revised its calculations after the announcement and concluded that the new rule would still make financial sense.
"It is very clear that solar will cost" Effective, "he said.
For environmentalists, the move is an important step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and if the electricity they consume is taken into account, buildings are The second largest source of greenhouse gases in the state, just behind transport, California's law calls for reducing state CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
"This is a key measure to reduce greenhouse gases in the building sector "We are paying close attention to one area in California," said Rachel Golden, a high-level representative of the Sierra Club campaign, "We have a strong cleansing policy, a strong transport policy, but we have no strong decarbonisation policy for buildings."