California Solar Panel Mandate for Advances in New Buildings

LOS ANGELES – California regulators voted on Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commer...


LOS ANGELES – California regulators voted on Wednesday to require builders to include solar power and battery storage in many new commercial structures as well as high-rise residential projects. This is the latest initiative in the state’s vigorous efforts to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources.

The five-member California Energy Commission unanimously approved the proposal. It will now be picked up by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in a comprehensive building code review in December.

The energy plan, which would go into effect on January 1, 2023, also calls for new homes to be wired in a way that facilitates and even encourages the conversion of natural gas heating and household appliances to electrical sources.

“The future we are trying to build together is a future beyond fossil fuels,” Energy Committee chairman David Hochschild said ahead of the agency’s vote. “Big changes require everyone to play a role. We all have a role to play in building that future.

Commercial buildings that would be affected by the plan include hotels, offices, doctor’s offices and clinics, retail and grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces like theaters, auditoriums and health centers. Congress.

The provisions would complement requirements that came into effect last year requiring new single-family homes and multi-family dwellings up to three stories to include solar power.

Homes and businesses use nearly 70% of California’s electricity and are responsible for a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to the commission. He said the proposals approved on Wednesday would cut emissions over 30 years as much as if nearly 2.2 million cars were taken off the road for a year.

Any increase in construction costs is expected to be minimal, the Energy Commission said. Adding solar power and storage during construction is considered more cost effective than retrofitting.

Lindsay Buckley, spokesperson for the Energy Board, said that “although there is no guarantee” that the Building Standards Board will adopt the plan, it had never rejected such a proposal after approval by the energy panel.

Many California cities have building codes that restrict or ban natural gas in new construction – 49 municipalities in total, according to the Sierra Club – but the changes put forward on Wednesday would significantly extend the shift away from fossil fuels.

In addition to consumers and environmental groups, representatives from utilities including Southern California Edison, one of the state’s investor-owned utilities, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District have spoken out in favor of the changes. .

The commission heard some opposition during the development of the plan, particularly from Southern California Gas, which supplies much of the natural gas to residential, commercial and industrial customers in Southern California, Mr. Hochschild.

The California Building Industry Association has taken a neutral stance, although some members of the utilities union have warned against any natural gas ban, arguing it could increase customer bills and hurt jobs.

“Instead of a reckless push for the electrification of buildings, has the commission considered advocating for a device replacement program?” Carlos Portillo, a member of the Utility Workers Union of America, wrote to the panel.

The head of the organization that represents the state’s solar power and battery companies said that while she felt the code change was necessary, policies being considered by other state regulators could undermine the benefits.

The official, Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association, said while utilities have welcomed the commission’s plan, they have offered to cut the benefits homeowners and businesses receive for the excess electricity that they produce and send to the grid. .

Owners of rooftop solar power systems receive compensation equivalent to the retail cost of electricity, an arrangement that utility companies say is unfair to those without such systems. The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees investor-owned utilities, is considering a modification of the arrangement, known as net energy metering, in future solar installations.

A significant change could reduce or eliminate the savings solar power and storage offer residential and commercial customers. “Net metering is the only opportunity for the little guy to get relief, and they want to put the kibosh on it,” Ms. Del Chiaro said.

Californians have felt the urgency to stop using fossil fuels as climate change has brought about extreme weather conditions, which have contributed to some of the state’s most devastating wildfires. And beyond reducing carbon emissions, solar power has been embraced as a way to deal with blackouts.

Investor-owned utilities cut off power for a week to prevent electrical equipment from starting fires. Consumers have therefore increasingly sought solar panels and storage batteries as secondary energy sources.

During public comments to the Energy Commission on Wednesday, speakers urged regulators to help keep residents of the state safe in the face of all devastation.

“We can hear the passion and just the urgency and the emotion beyond what motivates people to support this,” said Commissioner Andrew McAllister. “California is forced to lead more than ever.”

The latest big change in the energy provisions of the state building code – the requirement for new single-family homes to be equipped with solar power – was approved in 2018. The rules came into effect on January 1, 2020. The impact has so far been limited, as builders who already had permits could operate according to previous standards, and the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted work and licensing.

The main goal, McAllister said, should be to recognize the important role that changes in the building code can play in helping to reduce emissions. “This is a huge lever that California needs to pull to get the attention of the market,” he said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: California Solar Panel Mandate for Advances in New Buildings
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