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California Energy Commission Votes to Require Solar Panels in Most New Homes

Workmen install solar panels on a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, Calif., in 2016. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

The California Energy Commission voted Wednesday in favor of requiring that almost all new homes built in the state are equipped with rooftop solar panels.

The new energy efficiency standards, which are the first of their kind in the country, require that solar panels be included on all single and multi-family homes built after January 1, 2020, unless they rise above three stories.

The new standards, which will also exempt some homes deemed to be too shady, are part of governor Jerry Brown’s broader effort to decrease the state’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Critics of the new initiative allege it will adversely effect the housing market, citing the California Energy Commission estimate that the measure will raise the cost of new homes by an average of nearly $10,000 — a particularly troubling impact in a state plagued by high housing costs.

“With home prices having risen as much as they have, I think home buyers would find it a little distasteful to be forced to pay more for solar systems that they may not want or feel like they can’t afford,” Brent Anderson, a spokesman for homebuilder Meritage Homes Corp, told Bloomberg. “Even though, in the long term, it’s the right answer.”

Proponents view it as an appropriately aggressive measure to combat climate change and cite the state’s finding that it will likely reduce energy costs by $80 per month for the average household.

“This is huge,” said Rachel Golden, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club. “It’s a cost effective measure that is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support growth in renewable clean energy.”

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