California’s Rooftop Solar Mandate Wins Final Approval

It’s official. All new homes in California must incorporate
solar power starting in 2020.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) passed
the measure
 in May as an update to the state’s 2019 Title
24, Part 6, Building Energy Efficiency Standards
. On Wednesday,
the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) signed
on the plan — a first of its kind for the nation. 

The new standards
require that all new homes under three
stories high install solar panels starting January 1, and that
solar systems are sized to net out the annual kilowatt-hour energy
usage of the dwelling. The codes also incentivize “demand
responsive technologies,” including battery storage and heat pump
water heaters. Combined with a host of other energy efficiency
upgrades, the revised building codes are expected to slash energy
use in new homes by more than 50 percent.

“It’s officially official. Solar will be required on new
California homes starting in 2020,” said Kelly Knutsen, director
of technology advancement for the California Solar & Storage
Association. “These highly energy efficient and solar-powered
homes will save families money on their energy bills from the
moment they walk through their front door.”

For many in the Golden State, the solar roof mandate came as a
surprise — as building codes aren’t a typical venue for solar
policy. The rules have been in the works for some time, however,
and the CBSC vote today confirms that the correct process was
followed to increase clean energy requirements under California’s
Building Energy Standards.

Over the past three years, the CEC performed an in-depth
analysis on the new rules and gathered official public input from
all relevant stakeholders, including utilities, home builders,
solar companies, the lighting industry and others. The analysis
found that requiring solar would be cost-effective in all climate
zones of the state, and that homeowners would save $40 dollars each
month, or roughly $500 per year, due to the new rules. The codes
are expected to add around $40 per month to a typical mortgage
payment, but the costs are outweighed by an expected $80 per month
in energy savings.

The codes are ambitious and present new challenges for the home
building industry. Robert Raymer, technical director at the
California Building Industry Association, said that his members
were hoping the CEC would delay the solar mandate, giving the
industry more time to prepare. Home builders failed to push back
implementation, but succeeded in pushing down the cost of
compliance and adding flexibility measures to the rules.

“We wish the CEC would have waited another three to four
years, but the fact is they started working on this back in 2008
and the last three [building code] updates in 2010, 2014 and 2017
were all adopted with the trajectory to try and get us as close to
net-zero energy by 2020 as possible,” he told GTM in May.

While the codes can no longer be materially changed, home
builders will continue to work with the CEC, as well as utilities,
solar companies and other stakeholders, to put the new rules in
place. There are still a lot of unanswered questions around
electricity rates, business models, financing options and more (GTM
has reported in-depth on the
details of the solar mandate
and next steps).

One thing is for sure, the new codes are a win for California’s
solar sector.

An analysis conducted on behalf of the CEC by Energy and
Environmental Economics (E3) found that statewide construction of
single-family homes is projected to be 74,154 in 2020, the first
year of compliance. Assuming the same number of single-family homes
are built over that period, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables
(formerly GTM Research) says sales are expected to increase

14 percent over a four-year timeframe
. That amounts to an
upside of nearly 650 megawatts-DC compared to WoodMac’s base-case
forecast for the residential solar segment.

When multi-family homes are factored in, the total number of new
dwellings increases to around 130,000 units in 2020, according to
the CEC.

The solar industry currently installs around 150,000 solar
systems each year on new and existing homes in California. Today,
only 15,000 of those projects are on new dwellings. Starting in
2020, the new home solar market will see an exponential

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
California’s Rooftop Solar Mandate Wins Final Approval