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California Will Require All New Homes to Have Solar Panels

Californians may soon have cheaper utility bills.

That’s because the state passed a law on Wednesday that requires all new homes to have solar panels, according to the New York Times.

The bill, which takes effect in 2020, is the most ambitious of its kind in the US. Other states have considered similar proposals, and Hawaii has mandated comparable energy efficiency measures, but no other state has made solar energy a prerequisite for new construction, as the Times notes.

The measure will be central to the state’s goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable sources and cutting its carbon emissions by 40% by 2030, according to Bloomberg.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

“Under these new standards, buildings will perform better than ever, at the same time they contribute to a reliable grid,” Andrew McAllister, the California Energy Commission’s lead on energy efficiency, said in a press release.

“The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy,” he added. “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.”

7223454260_78f29e09e5_k.jpgFlickr / Elliott Brown

The bill requires new homes to generate two to three kilowatts of solar energy, while the standard residential solar set-up generally creates double or triple that amount, according to the Times.

Once implemented, the standards will add an estimated $8,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a home, at a time when affordable housing remains out of reach for many Californians.

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However, state officials claim the electricity savings brought about by the solar panels will more than make up for the increased building costs. The energy commission projects that monthly mortgage payments will increase by $40, while heating, cooling, and lighting bills will decrease by $80.  

The solar industry stands to benefit substantially from this announcement, according to the New York Times, as solar installations are projected to rise by 44%

“This is a very large market expansion for solar,” Lynn Jurich, co-founder and CEO of Sunrun, a leading solar installation company, told the Times. “It’s very cost effective to do it this way, and customers want it.”

California already has the country's leading solar market, with 86,000 people employed in the industry, and 16% of its electricity coming from the renewable source, the Hill reports.  

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As more homes and buildings cultivate the sun’s rays, the state’s energy grid will be able to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Ultimately, the new bill is a response to the growing urgency of climate change.

California’s Environmental Protection Agency released a report earlier this week that details the devastating environmental impacts the state has endured over the past few decades.

“Climate change is not a conceptual or theoretical challenge. The evidence is overwhelming — universities and scientists worldwide agree — that climate change is all too real,” Matthew Rodriquez, California secretary for environmental protection, said in a statement.

“There is no time for political posturing and partisan debate,” he added. “We have to respond to this challenge now, while preparing for an uncertain future.”

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By boldly betting on solar power, the state may encourage other states to follow its lead.  

“This adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap,” Bob Raymer, senior engineer for the California Building Industry Association, said during the public comments before the vote on the new law. “You can bet every state will be watching to see what happens.”

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