The California Solar Mandate: Everything You Need to Know | Solar.com

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The California Solar Mandate: Everything You Need to Know

Many states are paving the way towards a cleaner, emissions-free, and sustainable future. They are actively addressing climate change and innovating new solutions to fit their circumstances. This widespread support for climate action proves the dire need to protect and preserve our land for future generations to come. Many states have adopted different policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as developing clean energy resources, promoting electric vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles, and the like.

California, among many other states, has introduced specific goal-oriented targets, such as the 100% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), 100% renewable power by 2045. One of the state’s policies includes the California Solar Mandate that begins on January 1, 2020. This initiative by the California Energy Commission requires California to produce 50% of its energy through clean energy sources by 2030.

Whether you’re a developer or a homebuyer, here’s everything you need to know about the California Solar Mandate.

What is the California Solar Mandate?

The California Energy Commission introduced the California solar mandate which requires rooftop solar photovoltaic systems to be equipped on all new homes built on January 1, 2020 and beyond. This progressive ruling is the first of its kind in the US and is leading the nation to a cleaner energy future. This initiative by the CEC aims to spearhead California’s milestone goal of producing 50% of the state’s energy through clean energy sources by 2030.

Commissioner Andrew McAllister of California Energy Commission (CEC):

“The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy. They will cost less to operate, have healthy indoor air and provide a platform for ‘smart’ technologies that will propel the state even further down the road to a low emissions future.” 

The 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards

The new 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards requires that all new single-family homes and multi-family buildings that are under three stories must conform to the new solar code standards and is climate zone-specific depending on the sizing of a home’s floor area. This applies to all houses, condos, and apartments that obtain building permits on or after January 1, 2020.

The amendment would also require an additional $9,500 in upfront costs to equip the new homes with the systems. However, due to the significantly reduced electric bills, it is assumed that the lifetime energy savings will offset these upfront costs.

The Building Energy Efficient Standards also encourages home batteries and heat-pump water heaters installed to the home’s electrical system to improve the comfort of homes while also reducing energy costs.

The size of the equipped system will be determined by the ability to offset 100% of the home’s electricity usage. Homes do not need to offset 100% of their home’s energy with solar. In fact, homes can still rely on other energy sources that do not need to be offset by solar such as: gas stoves and central heating.

Who is exempt from the mandate?

Homes that are located in areas where the sun is often shaded are exempt from this mandate. This list also includes residents of high rise apartment buildings in larger new developments.

Who does it affect?

This mandate primarily affects the following: solar companies, housing developers, and potential homebuyers. As this mandate aims to increase the use of clean energy, the costs of solar is expected to continue to decrease decade after decade, as it already has.

As potential homebuyers make new home purchases with equipped solar, solar companies no longer have a need to acquire this category of customers and can concentrate on penetrating the market of homeowners with homes built before 2020. The costs of solar is expected to be reduced because housing developers can utilize their own workforce to complete the labor of the installation process. According to the CEC, potential homebuyers can expect new homes with PV systems to cost an additional $9,500. However, they can also expect to save an average of $19,500 over the life of the system.

In fact, a new study from a market research firm, CITE Research, shows that 70% of Americans would support a similar nationwide mandate.

As the fifth largest economy in the world, California has a lot of influence over other states and countries and as it continues to be the market leader for residential photovoltaic solar, it makes sense that the state is the first of its kind to implement this mandate. Limited research suggests that 70% of Americans would support a similar nationwide mandate. The cost of solar continues to decrease significantly, as a result, many states may take notice and adopt similar policies to reach their carbon-neutral goals. With the mandate in place, non-solar customers may be influenced by their solar neighbors as they notice more and more new housing developments include the technology. There’s hope that this mandate will help promote climate action and normalize the use of clean energy such as solar, wind, and electric vehicles to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and greenhouse emissions.

The Best Time to Go Solar is Now

If you’re a homeowner looking to go solar in the near future, now is the best time. As we dwindle through the remaining months of 2019, there is limited time to claim the 30% federal tax credit on your system and possibly other incentives depending on your location. Solar.com’s online solar marketplace helps homeowners easily gather free solar designs and multiple quotes from different companies so you don’t have to. Use our solar calculator to assess your home’s solar viability 100% online. If you have questions, our team of dedicated, unbiased, expert Energy Advisors will remotely guide you through the process to ensure you make the best choice.

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