California approves plan to require rooftop solar power for new homes

ImageAn array of solar panels in Oakland Calif. Solar power provides almost 16 percent of the state’s

ImageAn array of solar panels in Oakland Calif. Solar power provides almost 16 percent of the state’s

Starting in 2020, almost all new single-family homes and low-rise apartment buildings built in California must have solar power, state authorities ruled Wednesday.

The added cost of the systems is expected to drive up the price on the average new single-family home by about $10,500, according to state estimates, but save homeowners about $16,200 in utility bills over the long run.

The new regulation must still be approved by the state's building standards commission, which is considered a formality.

Residential and commercial buildings are estimated to contribute about 40 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, said Andrew McAllister, a state energy commissioner. "With everything happening in the country right now and President Trump's obsession with coal and the continuing strength of the oil industry, California needs to be aggressive in moving towards a clean energy future, and this is one step in that direction".

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The California Building Standards Commission will review the proposed new energy standards in the fall for a final decision on whether to add them to the state building code.

The commission projects that more than 100,000 single-family homes and nearly 50,000 multi-family buildings will be built across the state in 2020.

The commission endorsed the requirement after representatives of builders, utilities and solar manufacturers voiced support.

The new requirement will take place starting in 2020.

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The state updates its building codes, including energy efficiency standards, once every three years. The state's Building Standards Commission will vote later this year. As of now, only 15 to 20 percent of homes in California have solar panels.

California has set a goal of all residential buildings being 'zero net energy, ' meaning they produce as much energy as they consume. What could the mandate could mean for homeowners?

The approved standards still allow new home construction to continue with some natural gas but it looks to reduce gas need over time and facilitate a shift to high-efficiency electric appliances, such as heat pump water heaters. A National Association of Realtors survey for the fourth quarter of 2017 listed four California markets among the nation's five most expensive.

Because of such policies, the most populous US state has frequently been at odds with President Donald Trump's aggressive rollback of policies to combat climate change. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

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Some buildings will be eligible for exemptions from the requirement, including those shaded by trees or with roofs too small to accommodate a solar photovoltaic system.

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