The U.S. State of California approves mandatory outfitting of new homes with solar panels

The California Energy Commission unanimously adopted new building standards that require photovoltaic panels in new home starting in 2020, in order to cut energy use in them by 50%. Now, solar panels will be placed on all buildings up to three stories high. Of course, there are some exceptions: buildings that are shaded (e.g., by trees), which design height/structure will not a viable energy generation. Therefore, expert assessment will be necessary to apply exemptions in certain cases.

The new building standards are estimated to reduce greenhouse gas air emissions by 700,000 metric tons over the first three years of implementation, which is equivalent to the emission of 150,000 internal combustion vehicles. The State authorities anticipate a drastic reduction in electricity and natural gas use. Local conservation organizations are highly optimistic about these changes: "The new standards will provide for building energy efficient homes that will generate power for their operation, their maintenance will become more cost-effective, and their tenants will breathe cleaner air. These developments will expedite creating a future with low air pollution".

Some sceptics, though, believe that it will entail a large number of negative effects. Thus, human rights advocates envision imminent discrimination of disadvantaged groups: "The California housing market is already oversaturated, and most homeowners simply cannot afford to pay extra for installation of the photovoltaic panels. Such regulations will be beneficial for wealthy homeowners alone, while the poor will be forced to leave the State as soon as possible".

The Commission's analysts, though, offer other figures. According to their estimates, the average monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage will increase by $40, while owners of homes with solar panels with save about $80 in heating, air conditioning and lighting bills. In total, the new home building costs will grow by $9,500 on average, while homeowners will save $19,000 over 30 years.

Kelly Knutsen, Director of Technology Advancement for the California Solar and Storage Association also emphasized the advantages of these new developments: "The move is a win-win for all income levels. Low-income families spend proportionally more of their income on their energy bills, than middle- and high-income families. Since their monthly savings on the bills will be two times more than the increase in the monthly mortgage fees, such families will definitely benefit from it".

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