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California Energy Commission approves plan requiring solar panels on new homes

Posted at 11:04 PM, May 09, 2018

CALIFORNIA – People wanting to buy a new home in California may soon face an additional upfront expense: solar panels that will reduce energy use.

The California Energy Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to adopt new energy efficiency standards, which would make the panels a requirement.

While the vote was a big step forward, the proposed new standards will still have to go to the California Building Standards Commission for final consideration later this year.

The standards will benefit homeowners' wallets and the environment, according to the CEC.

"Homes under the (new) standards will use about 50% less energy than those under the previous 2016 standards," said CEC spokeswoman Amber Beck, "and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced as if 115,000 cars were taken off the road."

Houses under construction as of January 1, 2020, will be included in the plan. This would make California the first state in the country to require solar panels on homes, according to the CEC.

Some groups, however, are worried about the added expense of installing the panels. The commission calculates it would cost approximately $9,500 per home.

Adding up the costs

This poses a problem for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, which aims to provide more affordable housing to people in need.

"As a nonprofit builder who finances all the construction ourselves through private donations, it is, of course, a concern to add any more costs to those," Laine Himmelmann, development director for Habitat for Humanity in Sacramento, told CNN affiliate KCRA.

"We build about eight to 10 homes a year here at Habitat for Humanity," she added. "If you multiply that by how many homes, we're looking at about $80,000 to $100,000 more a year in donations that we need to raise."

Still, the CEC believes homeowners will save more than they will spend in the long run.

They calculate that a 30-year mortgage would face an increase of about $40 in average monthly payments, but residents would save $80 dollars on heating, cooling and lighting bills every month.

Leasing options will be available for those who do not wish to invest in a solar system upfront.

"The homeowner pays a small fee to lease the equipment but receives the benefit on their monthly utility bill," Beck told CNN.

Some California cities, including San Francisco, San Mateo and Lancaster, already have similar ordinances in place.