California Mandates Solar Panels For Most New Homes

Most new homes built in California will be required to have rooftop solar panels beginning in 2020, a mandate expected to add around $9,500 to the cost of a new house - but provide around $19,000 in energy savings over a 30-year period.

Regulators agreed on Wednesday to approve the historic plan, making California the first state in the country to mandate solar-energy installations on the majority of single-family homes and multi-family residential buildings up to three stories - including condos and apartment complexes. 

"We cannot let Californians be in homes that are essentially the residential equivalent of gas guzzlers," said CA energy commission member David Hochschild, prior to the vote. "This really puts us on a path to a more efficient future."

Experts, however, warn that forcing builders to require solar panels will just worsen the state's already horrendous affordable housing crisis

The California Energy Commission approved the mandate 5-0 as part of the state's 2019 update to energy efficiency standards, and an ongoing effort to reduce greenhouse gases. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state's robust building sector is the second largest source of greenhouse gasses when fossil fuel burning power plants are factored in. 

"This is an undeniably historic decision for the state and the U.S.," said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade association with about 1,000 member companies. "California has long been our nation's biggest solar champion, and its mass adoption of solar has generated huge economic and environmental benefits, including bringing tens of billions of dollars of investment into the state." -CNBC

The new mandate caused solar stocks to jump on Wednesday - sending SunPower up 6%, Sunrun 4% and First Solar 3%. 

Dave Fanger, CEO Swell Investing - whose Green Tech and Renewable Energy portfolios hold solar investments says that "Overall, we expect with California's mandate some companies within the solar and broader renewable industry stand to benefit positively, including those who make panels and component parts, as well as those who assist with installation and ensure efficient use of energy."

The new energy efficiency standards also apply to everything from indoor air quality to current ventilation systems, which we're sure won't drive costs up in the golden state. Every three years the state updates their efficiency standards, with the ultimate goal of "net-zero" energy homes which have very small carbon footprints. 

California in transition

California's renewable portfolio standard requires power companies to adopt at least 50% of their total energy sources from renewables such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric by 2030. Meanwhile, around 15-20% of single-family houses built in the state have solar panel installations. As CNBC notes, at least seven cities in the state have solar mandates of one type or another, including San Francisco. 

"Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards," Bob Raymer, the technical director for the CBIA said in remarks to the energy commission prior to the vote in Sacramento. "No other state in the nation will have anything close to this — and you can bet every one of the 49 other states will be watching closely to see what happens."

Raymer also applauded state regulators for working with builders "to significantly reduce overall compliance costs and to provide increased design flexibility." He said that cooperation "was the key to gaining industry support from these first-of-a-kind regulations." -CNBC

The new solar mandate includes compliance credits for the installation of battery storage technology - meaning that homeowners whose rooftop system store energy during the day for use at night when rates are higher. 

Falling costs

Rooftop solar systems have fallen in price considerably over the last several years, while the technology has become more efficient and aesthetically pleasing - such as ones which look like traditional roof shingles. 

Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells designed to look like and integrate with conventional asphalt roof shingles. First commercially available in 2005, solar shingles were much more costly than traditional “bolt-on” photovoltaic panels, and thus were used mainly by those wanting to go solar but maintain a traditional roofline. But more recently solar shingles have become price-competitive with bolt-on panels, and are getting much more popular accordingly. Eco-conscious home and building owners might find solar shingles especially attractive when they are re-shingling anyway since the solar shingles also double as functional, protective and weatherproof roof shingles in their own right. -Scientific American

The largest name in solar shingles is Dow's Powerhouse brand, which uses copper indium gallium selenide solar cells (aka "thin-film solar") to generate 12 watts per square foot and are designed for structures already connected to the power grid which can send power back (known as "grid-tied"). 

Affordable Housing woes

CNBC notes that the new solar initative will strain an already-painful affordable housing crunch throughout California.

"Affordable housing is maybe the number one issue for Californians right now," said Lucas Davis, an associate professor at the Haas School of Business at University of California-Berkeley. Davis thinks CA regulators may be making a huge mistake.

"You don't need a mandate here — we already have vast amounts of solar in California," said Davis. "Half of U.S. solar is installed in California, so it's not at all clear to me you needed the mandate. We're actually paying other states to take our electricity during daylight hours."

Davis thinks that electricity rates will rise as the solar mandate kicks in due to a "cost shift" to non-solar homeowners who will be forced to pay higher electricity costs.

"We already have some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and this will only be exacerbated by this mandate," he said. "As more and more rooftop solar gets installed, that pushes the cost onto all the non-solar customers."'s chief economist Danielle Hale said that the mandate could "cause builders to hurry to complete projects before the mandate kicks in Jan. 1, 2020," adding that "affordable new construction already lags demand" and could get worse as a result of the solar mandate. 

Only one question; what will California regulators mandate in 5-15 years when there are tons and tons of dead lithium ion batteries which need a landfill to call home for the next few millennia? 


FreeMoney TheWholeYearInn Thu, 05/10/2018 - 14:03 Permalink

So Governor moonbeams plan is to continue the gentrification of the State.

I'm sure this government interference in the market will cause several "unforseen" issues that are pretty obvious to anyone paying attention.

I would also note this follows the tyranny of government death by a 1,000 cuts model of:

1. encourage a behavior,

2. subsidize a behavior,

3. raise taxes. 

4. make the behavior mandatory,

5. make another government program to act like they are trying to repair the obvious damage from the unintended consequences,

6. create dependence on government

7. raise taxes

8. repeat

In reply to by TheWholeYearInn

Slow Burning Rage css1971 Thu, 05/10/2018 - 14:15 Permalink

California:  Housing is too expensive and we have to do something about it!

Also California:  Let's add another $30k in regulatory cost per home.

Genius.  We need a wall around California to contain the contagion.  They poison their state with progressive mandates and then flee to neighboring states because the result is so horrible.  Oh...and then begin poisoning the neighboring states.  SMH.

In reply to by css1971

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 inhibi Thu, 05/10/2018 - 15:01 Permalink

Interesting article. My former Kommiefornicunt neighbor's came over this weekend and asked me to sign the HOA form so they can install solar (no batteries). Cost for X20 / 300 watt panels? $27K. But he gets some kind of tax rebate from the state! Power company buys back excess power! I don't care what they do as I am not planning on staying here for much longer. This house will be a rental so it doesn't matter what they do.

As for the lithium ion battery graveyard / burial pits? Hahahahaha. All these stupid greenies think that solar power will the save the earth. I have said, for years, what are they going to do with all those batteries? The one in my old Honda Civic hybrid took up the whole back seat! Those hybrid car batteries are huuuuge! And all the old solar panels? Imagine taking those to the dump! Some smart person is going to make a lot of money running a dump for all this crap! And it won't be cheap to throw away your used up hybrid battery and 10-year old solar panels.

In reply to by inhibi

ZD1 Peg C. Thu, 05/10/2018 - 17:43 Permalink

Five UN-ELECTED Democrat bureaucrat communist thugs mandated this solar boondoggle.

How much did they earn in payoffs/bribes?  

Take a look at their fugly mugs:


Robert B. Weisenmiller, Ph.D.
Appointment Designation: Engineer/Scientist

Karen Douglas, J.D.
Appointment Designation: Attorney

David Hochschild
Appointment Designation: Environmental

J. Andrew McAllister, Ph.D.
Appointment Designation: Economist

Janea A. Scott, J.D.
Appointment Designation: Public Member


In reply to by Peg C.

2ndamendment a Smudge by an… Thu, 05/10/2018 - 13:42 Permalink

I love how this is presented: "$9,500 to the cost of a new house - but provide around $19,000 in energy savings over a 30-year period."


I don't even need to look at the Present Value of FCF to determine this project would not be profitable at a reasonable discount rate. And I highly doubt solar panels will last for thirty years with no maintenance cost. The way people sell this crap as being "affordable" or a "good investment", its pretty disgusting. 

In reply to by a Smudge by an…

GoingBig 2ndamendment Thu, 05/10/2018 - 13:52 Permalink

So maybe you should because it does pencil out. I put solar into my home 2 years ago and it works great, has a 30 year warranty and has reduced my bill to nothing most months. My payback period is 12 years but instead of paying for energy I am paying for the solar panels. After 12 years my power is free. Until then I am just paying a reduced rate.

In reply to by 2ndamendment

jofg899 GoingBig Thu, 05/10/2018 - 15:43 Permalink

And that 12 years includes maintenance and repairs? And battery replacement when needed (and disposal fees for the old batteries?)  Is the solar roof mounted? What about the cost to remove the solar arrays and reinstall when you need to replace your roof? How about insurance?  Did you factor in the additional insurance cost (or is there no insurance coverage and are you prepared to cover the cost to replace if possible storm damage over those 12 years??) 

Also curious about what government rebates or credits you are getting.  YOU may consider it free money but of course it isn't....someone coughed that up so you could have your "free" energy in 12 years (assuming you haven't moved by then). 

In reply to by GoingBig

inhibi johnQpublic Thu, 05/10/2018 - 14:37 Permalink

If they do, I can only imagine how many more will be forced to leave California.

As if mandated Unaffordable healthcare didnt put enough pressure on the middle class family, the $2000/year repair costs will.

And you would think that they would at least extend tax credits for this shit...but no, they want you to pay for it, repair it, and happily accept the 30% increase to your general electricity bill.

I can only imagine that every single company that owns/uses high amounts of electricity will be swiftly leaving Cali. I'm sure Silicon Valley will get some under the table deal on elec, because I do not see all the server farm based computing companies taking a 30% hit on their overhead.

In reply to by johnQpublic

Jack's Raging … inhibi Thu, 05/10/2018 - 15:58 Permalink

The figures are bogus. To keep pace with inflation, you would need a savings of double that $19k figure, at minimum. The average cost increase of home building by $9,500 is also a joke. Costs are presently 2x to 3x greater than that for anyone that doesn't install them themselves.

Elon Musk really negotiated one hell of a deal for his soul. Satan is working overtime to keep him afloat.

In reply to by inhibi

JuliaS 2ndamendment Thu, 05/10/2018 - 14:54 Permalink

I bet labor costs are also ignored. Rooftop panels typically don't last beyond 10 years without serious overhauls, and efficiency drops continuously throughout utilization period. Same thing with charging circuits and batteries. Those fail periodically. Where's their cost of maintenance?

A typical shingled roof can be covered in shrubs, bird crap, exhaust residue and it's fine. Solar panels, on the other hand, have to be kept clean and you can't walk over them carelessly as you do with asphalt tiles.

If politicians are going to be mandating electro-roofs, you can be sure, it'll be followed up with bylaws mimicking lawn upkeep, snow removal and anti-graffiti regulations. And you won't be climbing your own roof to do the work either. You'll be required to hire government approved agencies. Those $19000 in potential savings will be eaten through after the first maintenance cycle 4 years in.

In reply to by 2ndamendment

Mama Mia 2ndamendment Thu, 05/10/2018 - 15:33 Permalink

Agreed completely, Unfortunately, because the energy rates have gotten so high, it is viewed more as subsidizing your ability to afford the power you need. With the risk of the panels being junk after (optimistically) 10-15 years, it is cheaper to make a loan payment (with tax deductible interest) on the panels & equipment than to run your air conditioner without them. Solar loan payment- 169.00/month all year, Electric bill in the summer(May - October here) without them $350-400/month. Like everything in CA, it is a lose-lose situation. I have finally resolved myself to the fact that the crazy stupid laws are just a distraction/frustration, and the real goal is to drive us to insanity. Yes, I am a slow learner...

In reply to by 2ndamendment

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 Mama Mia Thu, 05/10/2018 - 16:35 Permalink

The way to lower AC expenses are not complicated. Install better insulation, including the attic with reflective stuff, fans and good ventilation. Get a heat pump. Don't ask me why they are called heat pumps because I don't know. Mine uses elecriticty for both forced air heat and A/C unless the temperature drops below 45 degrees and then the heat is made in the garage with electricity. I keep my house at 66 in the winter and 67 in the summer. My heating costs in the winter run around $130 a month (1300 SF house) and, after installing LED lighting, my spring bill was down to $91. I expect that to be my cost through the summer, too. I doubt that my bill will be more than $100 this summer while keeping my house at a frosty 67 degrees.

So, insulation, good ventilation, good airflow fans, LED lighting, and a heat pump (I think they have heat pumps that run on natural gas, too, that would be the way to go). Way cheaper and way less hassle than solar panels.

Edit: Just got my bill for May. $75.50! WOO HOO! Yes, I have had both the AC and the heat on. I am loving those LED lights! This is my first full monthly bill since I put them in. I still have 20 lights to go (mostly the lights that I only leave on for a few mintues and turn off. The lights I leave on for extended periods of time have all been swapped out).

In reply to by Mama Mia