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Solar panels could be required on all new California homes. Here's what it would cost

Here’s an Energy 101 course on how solar photovoltaic systems generate power

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate clean, cost-effective power anywhere the sun shines. This video shows how a PV panel converts the energy of the sun into renewable electricity to power homes and businesses.
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Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems can generate clean, cost-effective power anywhere the sun shines. This video shows how a PV panel converts the energy of the sun into renewable electricity to power homes and businesses.

If you buy a new home in 2020, you may get solar panels - whether you want them or not.

The California Energy Commission will vote Wednesday on whether to require all new homes in the state to have solar panels starting in less than two years.

The proposed regulation would be the first such state mandate in the country, and represents a dramatic step forward in California's multi-decade effort to reduce energy use and ultimately turn California homes into energy producers.

The commission also will vote on increased efficiency standards for attics, walls, insulation and windows.

The new requirements are likely to add nearly $9,500 to the construction cost per home as state officials have declared a housing crisis. Home prices have soared in California, and housing stock has failed to keep up with demand.

The solar rules, if approved, will apply to new single-family homes and new multi-family housing of three stories or less.

Some new houses will be exempt if solar panels are infeasible, such as when a roof is in the shadows of another structure.

The new regulations will not apply to remodels of existing buildings, according to the energy commission.

Under the plan, home builders who obtain construction permits issued on Jan. 1, 2020 or later must comply with the solar requirement.

While home purchase costs will be higher, Energy Commission spokeswoman Amber Beck said home buyers "would see a monthly mortgage payment rise by $40, while their monthly utility bills would decline by $80."

The California Building Industry Association, which represents new home builders, has expressed reservations about the new rules, saying it wished the state would have postponed the regulations for two years. But a spokesman said the association supports the state's efforts to make homes more energy efficient.

BIA technical director Robert Raymer said his group has worked with commission staff on the proposed changes, which he called "a quantum leap in statewide building standards."

"We especially appreciate the CEC's willingness to work with industry to reduce overall compliance costs and provide design flexibility," Raymer said in an email. "Among other things, the CEC is providing significant compliance credit for the installation of battery storage technology."

Energy Commission officials said the new regulations are key to moving the state closer to achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals.

"Improving the energy efficiency of existing residential and commercial buildings is the single most important activity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from electricity and natural gas use," the energy commission said in a statement issued with the proposed new regulations.

The commission will vote on the proposal as part of its 2019 update of its Building Energy Efficiency Standards.

The Sacramento Bee is launching additional coverage of real estate and housing in the Sacramento region. Please submit your tips and story ideas to housing@sacbee.com.

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