Cal­i­for­nia first state to man­date so­lar for homes.

Com­mis­sion adds stan­dard for homes built in 2020 and later

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Collins Cor­re­spon­dent

Cal­i­for­nia of­fi­cially be­came the first state in the na­tion on Wed­nes­day to re­quire homes built in 2020 and later be so­lar pow­ered.

To a smat­ter­ing of ap­plause, the state Build­ing Stan­dards Com­mis­sion voted unan­i­mously to add en­ergy stan­dards ap­proved last May by an­other panel to the state build­ing code.

Two com­mis­sion­ers and sev­eral pub­lic speak­ers lauded the new code as “a his­toric un­der­tak­ing” and a model for the na­tion.

“These pro­vi­sions re­ally are his­toric and will be a bea­con of light for the rest of the coun­try,” said Kent Sasaki, a struc­tural en­gi­neer and one of six com­mis­sion­ers vot­ing for the new en­ergy code. “( It’s) the be­gin­ning of sub­stan­tial im­prove­ment in how we pro­duce en­ergy and re­duce the con­sump­tion of fos­sil fu­els.”

The new pro­vi­sions are ex­pected to dra­mat­i­cally boost the num­ber of rooftop so­lar pan­els in the Golden State. Last year, builders took out per­mits for more than 115,000 new homes — al­most half of them for sin­gle-fam­ily homes.

Wed­nes­day’s ac­tion up­holds a May 9 vote by an­other body, the Cal­i­for­nia En­ergy Com­mis­sion, seek­ing to ful­fill a decade- old goal to make the state re­liant on cleaner, al­ter­na­tive en­ergy. The en­ergy panel’s vote was sub­ject to fi­nal ap­proval by the Build­ing Stan­dards Com­mis­sion.

The Build­ing Stan­dards Com­mis­sion was lim­ited to re­view­ing the en­ergy panel’s rule­mak­ing process, not the con­tent of the stan­dards, said com­mis­sion Chair­woman Mary­bel Bat­jer. Com­mis­sion­ers said the process was more than suf­fi­cient, with 35 meet­ings, hear­ings and we­bi­nars held over a 15-month pe­riod. The en­ergy panel re­ceived more than 3,000 com­ments from over 100 stake­hold­ers, of­fi­cials said.

While no­body spoke Wed­nes­day in op­po­si­tion to the new pro­vi­sions, the com­mis­sion re­ceived more than 300 let­ters from around the state op­pos­ing the so­lar man­date be­cause of the added cost.

En­ergy of­fi­cials es­ti­mated the pro­vi­sions will add $10,000 to the cost of build­ing a sin­gle- fam­ily home, about $8,400 from adding so­lar and about $1,500 for mak­ing homes more en­ergy- ef­fi­cient. But those costs would be off­set by lower util­ity bills over the 30-year lifes­pan of the so­lar pan­els.

One com­mis­sion mem- ber wor­ried the man­date would make it harder for Cal­i­for­nia wild­fire vic­tims to re­build, but sup­port­ers as­sured him that won’t be a prob­lem.

Home­own­ers will have two op­tions that elim­i­nate the up­front costs of adding so­lar: Leas­ing the so­lar pan­els or sign­ing a “power pur­chase agree­ment” that pays for the elec­tric­ity without buy­ing the pan­els, said Drew Bo­han, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia En­ergy Com­mis­sion.

One so­lar-in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the net sav­ings from adding so­lar power will be around $40 a month or nearly $500 a year.

“These stan­dards won’t nec­es­sar­ily make homes more ex­pen­sive to buy. What they will do is save money on util­ity costs,” said Pierre Delforge, a se­nior sci­en­tist with the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil. “This is not only the right thing to do for the cli­mate, it is fi­nan­cially smart.”

LAURA A. ODA — STAFF AR­CHIVES

En­ergy of­fi­cials es­ti­mate the new pro­vi­sions re­quir­ing so­lar power will add $10,000 to the cost of build­ing a sin­gle-fam­ily home.

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