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What California’s New Solar Mandate Means for You

Aug 09, 2018

On May 9, 2018, California became the first state in the U.S. to mandate solar power for new buildings. The 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards will be implemented starting January 1, 2020. This gives the government, builders and Californians a year and a half to adjust to the new measures.

The Specifics of the Mandate

According to the California Energy Commission’s standards, any new home or multi-family unit under three stories tall will be required to have solar PV panels of at least 2 to 3 kilowatts on the rooftop. The mandate only applies to new buildings where the building permit is pulled on or after the January 1 cut-off date.

There are several exceptions to the rule, including buildings with roofs that are:

  • Too small
  • Shaded by trees
  • Otherwise unable to support solar panels

The new legislation also allows for community solar, meaning that home developments could split the energy output of a shared solar array.

Who Passed the Mandate

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is the government entity responsible for statewide energy initiatives. Every three years, they update building standards in accordance with changing technology and energy prices. The most recent set of standards passed unanimously by a 5-0 vote.

What Is the End Goal?

When the solar mandate was originally conceived about a decade ago, the goal was to move California toward net-zero energy usage. The idea was that homes would produce as much energy as they were consuming.

As it turns out, accomplishing this goal isn’t quite as simple as just attaching solar panels to every roof in the state. Solar energy collection spikes during the daytime when the sun is out, yet Californians still need electricity at night. This forms a duck curve where solar energy is over-generated during the day and fossil fuels are burned at night for additional energy.

Because of this, there has been a shift in focus toward reducing carbon emissions and moving to an all-electric model. This isn’t currently feasible – in fact, the 2019 standards assume the new structures are mixed-fuel buildings that use gas in addition to electricity – but it could be possible in the years to come.

Solar Installation Costs

The CEC estimates that installing solar panels on new homes will result in a $9,500 increase in upfront costs. However, one solar industry expert believes this estimate is inflated and that the real number will hover around $4,200 as labor and customer acquisition costs continue to shrink.

Payment options will be available depending on your financial situation. For homeowners, the cost could be rolled into the overall home price and paid via mortgage, or you could pay in cash or take out a loan. It is also possible to lease solar panels and transfer the lease to the next occupant when you move.

Some people are worried that the mandate will raise the already high housing prices in California and worsen the shortage of affordable housing. However, the CEC maintains that the benefits of the mandate far outweigh the temporary costs during the adjustment period.

Long-Term Savings

Mandated solar power has the potential to save homeowners big bucks while also being a win for renewable energy and the environment. Over the course of 30 years, the CEC estimates homeowners will make back $19,000 in energy savings, canceling out the initial $9,500 cost for the solar panels. This works out to be a savings of $80 a month at the cost of $40 a month.

People who opt for battery storage can reap even more benefits. California currently operates by time-of-use rates, meaning that utility rates spike when electricity is in high demand. Those with stored power will be able to tap into their energy resources during those times to avoid paying the higher prices.

Save Money With New Solar Panels From Energy Saving Pros

With the announcement of the new mandate, plenty of companies will want to jump on the solar bandwagon. That’s why it’s crucial that new homebuyers partner with a solar energy company who knows the industry inside and out and stands by the quality of their products.

Energy Saving Pros has installed and serviced solar PV panels in Northern California since 2008. We give our customers the best bang for their buck by offering a wholesale pricing model and committing to selling “bankable” and “investment grade” panels. This means lower upfront costs for you and reliable performance in the long run.

If you have questions about how the mandate will impact your new home, contact us at 866-497-6527. We’d be glad to discuss how solar panels can slash your energy costs while satisfying the new state standards.


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