California Residential Solar Panel Mandate
When you think of California, it’s likely you think of sunshine, palm trees, beaches, and sun tans. And it’s true: the sun shines brightly in California. That’s why the State of California is mandating solar power in all new homes.
California has consistently been forward-focused when it comes to solar legislature. It is the only state with over 200 solar policies and incentives, and one of 11 states with at least 100 policies. But the state made groundbreaking moves toward increasing solar power usage in early 2018.
The new and potentially revolutionary requirement will take two years to go into effect. California state officials and clean energy advocates say the additional cost of the solar panels will be made up by lower energy bills.
Other states have been working toward adding more solar and green energy requirements to their legislature, but California is by far the leading force with this new mandate. The Golden State is betting big on solar.
California Solar Policy
The policy was passed in May of 2018 and requires most new houses and apartments to have rooftop solar by 2020. The Building Energy Efficiency Standards were voted on unanimously by the California Energy Commission.
California law requires at least 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from noncarbon-producing sources by 2030. Solar power has increasingly become a driver in the growth of the state’s alternative energy production.
In addition to this law implementation, in 2019, a California Time of Use (TOU) Rate Structure Change will charge customers based on the time of day they use electricity. Rates will be based on an on-peak and off-peak time schedule. Therefore, homeowners with energy efficient features, like a solar battery, will avoid higher costs.
With the new solar policy, California hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 493 million pounds of carbon per year – roughly equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road.
California already ranks first in the United States in solar usage with over 22,000 megawatts of installed rooftop solar. About 1 in 5 homes have solar panels today, almost 5.8 million homes in total, and the new policy will have a dramatic increase on the current numbers.
Though solar panels will increase the upfront costs of new homes by an average of $9,500, there will be a return on investment -- and then some. According to the CEC, homes will save around $19,000 on electricity over 30 years.
Flexibility in the new law:
- Can be rooftop or a shared solar grid that serves multiple homes.
- Rooftop solar can be leased or purchased.
- Must produce a minimum of 2-3 kilowatts.
Solar Mandate Negatives
As with every policy, it is important to look at both sides of the argument. Here are some oppositions to the mandate:
- Makes the grid more expensive for everyone else. When you pay your utility for electricity, a significant portion of your bill goes toward grid maintenance.
- Therefore, the more people who opt out in favor of solar, the more that cost shifts to the remaining utility customers. However, California’s TOU Rate Structure change was implemented to combat this opposition.
- No significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. California residents are not the largest source of greenhouse gases. People opposing this mandate believe the laws should be aimed at the businesses.
- According to the Energy Information Administration, agriculture and transportation are the worst offenders.
- Increases in brownouts. As with any supply and demand model, the increase in demand for solar energy could cause an increase in brownouts as operators struggle to keep up with demand.
More Statewide Solar Policies
California may be the leader when it comes to state solar regulations, but every state has some type of solar policy in place. In addition to the 41 federal policies and incentives, there are 3,636 state-level policies and incentives. Check them all out here.
Surprisingly, California is not one of the 8 states with an overall A grade. The states with an A grade are:
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- Washington, D.C.
- New York
While California does not carry an A grade, its solar mandate is the most robust policy in the country. The first step in other states following suit and reducing greenhouse gases would be for the International Energy Conversation Code to incorporate elements from California’s rule. This code was created by the International Code Council in 2000. It is a model code that is designed to meet these needs through model code regulations that will result in the optimal use of fossil fuels. If California’s policy has a monumental impact on reducing greenhouse gases, it is expected that other states will follow suit in the future.