California, land of the mandatory solar panels npower electricity meter reading

Thinking of building or purchasing a newly constructed home in California? Even assuming you can somehow afford to own one in one of the most brutal real estate markets in the country, get ready for the cost to go up further. The state government is preparing to pass a new law which will mandate that every new house, condo or other building up to three stories high must have solar panels installed and comply with a “net-zero energy” profile. (This means that they have to produce enough of their own solar power to offset all electricity off the grid and natural gas consumed over the course of a year.)

Some people clearly like the idea of generating their own power from solar energy, assuming they can afford the upfront costs. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. If you live in a very sunny area you might be able to make your home largely self-sufficient. But that’s a choice for the individual buyer to make and the free market to react to accordingly. When the state steps in and mandates it for virtually every new home, somebody is about to make a lot of money. One representative of the California Solar and Storage Association (a solar energy lobbyist group) is quoted as complaining that the new rules still don’t go far enough.

So if you live in California and are looking to buy a newly constructed home, what does this mean to you? Even state representatives admit that the solar panels and other “net-zero” requirements will increase the construction costs of a single family home by $25,000 to $30,000. They insist that the solar energy can actually produce a net savings for the homeowner, but it will be at least a decade before most people reach the break-even point. The additional costs include more insulation, more efficient windows and other thermal containment features.

Officials are saying there are exceptions built into the mandate, but will they be enough? Not everyone lives in an area that gets sun for nearly the entire year. Some are in the shade of canyons and other natural structures, while others may be dwarfed by surrounding buildings. They’re never going to reach that net-zero goal. It also means that pretty much everyone will need to go to electric heating instead of other, environmentally friendly options like natural gas. Not everyone likes electric heat, particularly if it means you have to run a humidifier all the time.

This all adds up to yet more expensive government mandates which are going to make a handful of people very, very wealthy. Will the last person to leave California please turn off the lights? (Assuming, of course, you still have enough power to keep your lights on.)

As much as 20% of new single-family homes built in the state include solar panels, according to the California Building Industry Association. The commission is set to adopt the new building energy standards that, in part, require all new homes constructed to include solar panels. The state’s five-person energy commission board will vote Wednesday to determine whether to enact such a move. This means that such homes would be able to produce enough solar power to offset the electricity and natural gas being consumed in the residential sector over the course of a year.

Some people clearly like the idea of generating their own power from solar energy, assuming they can afford the upfront costs. The decision would be in line with the state’s lofty goals for reducing reliance on natural gas, increasing battery storage, and promoting clean energy.

The new energy standards add about $25,000 to $30,000 to the construction costs compared with homes built to the 2006 code, said C.R. Herro, Meritage’s vice president of environmental affairs. Solar accounts for about USD 14,000 to USD 16,000 of that cost, with increased insulation and more efficient windows, appliances, lighting, and heating accounting for another USD 10,000 to USD 15,000.