Solar mandate for new commercial buildings approved in California


California’s Energy Commission panel has voted to require the inclusion of solar and battery energy storage on many new commercial buildings, as well as high-rise residential constructions. The panel of five voted unanimously on the mandate.

The proposal will now be taken up by the Building Standards Commission, which said the solar mandate will likely be included as part of the greater December revision of the state’s building code.

The plan, if approved, would go into effect the first day of 2023.

Also included in the plan is a requirement of new homes to have wiring that encourage and facilitate an easy transition from gas heating and appliances to all-electric.

The commercial buildings covered by the plan include offices, hotels, medical buildings, clinics, restaurants, schools, theaters, grocery stores, retail, auditoriums and convention centers.

This provision would build on existing California legislation that requires new single-family homes and multifamily dwellings up to three stories high to include solar power.

The commission said construction costs from this project are expected to be minimal, as it is more cost effective to build solar and storage at construction, rather than retrofitting.

Homes and buildings make up 70 percent of California’s electricity use and about a fourth of its greenhouse gas emissions, said the commission. Over 30 years, the commission said it estimates the emissions abated would equal taking 2.2 million cars off the road.

While it is not guaranteed the Building Standards Commission will approve the plan, they have not denied the California Energy Commission’s proposals in the past.

The plan has met some opposition, namely from Southern California Gas, and has seen support from environmental groups like the Sierra Club and utilities Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Southern California Edison.

Net metering to be changed?

The dynamics of solar continue to shift in the state, as the California Public Utilities Commission has been considering modifying net metering, the program in which solar owners are paid for their excess energy generation.

A sizable change, or elimination of, net metering could leave solar customers with significantly reduced savings, and the act is coming under fire from leaders in the solar industry.

“Net metering is the one opportunity for the little guy to get relief, and they want to put the kibosh on it,” Bernadette Del Chiaro, the executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association.

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