California introduces mandatory solar panels on new homes

California has become the first state in the USA to make solar panels compulsory on all new homes and apartment buildings, starting from 2020.

The plan, which still needs approval from the Building Standards Commission, was recently approved by the California Energy Commission in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Existing laws already require that at least 50% of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources.

California is the most populous states in the US, and one of the sunniest. It has already invested over $42m in solar energy, with around 16% of the state’s energy coming from solar last year.

It is estimated that adding solar panels will add around $8,000 – $12,000 to the cost of a new home, as some critics have been quick to point out. However, the California Energy Commission has argued that the extra cost will only add around $40 a month to an average mortgage, and that the panels will save homeowners around $80 per month in electricity bills.

Some homes will be exempt from the new law if installing solar panels is not feasible – for example, homes that are usually in the shade. Existing homeowners will not be forced to get panels, although government rebate programmes are available for those who wish to do so. The new rules would apply to single-family residences and multi-family buildings up to three stories high.

“We cannot let Californians be in homes that are essentially the residential equivalent of gas guzzlers”, said commissioner of the California Energy Commission David Hochschild, describing the new law as a “very bold and visionary step”.

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