California Will Require Solar Panels on New Buildings and Renovations

The new energy efficiency standards will come into effect in 2023.
Ameya Paleja
New standards in California aim to make buildings more energy efficient. golero/iStock

In a move aimed at making buildings more energy-efficient and reduce greenhouse emissions, the California Energy Commission (CEC) has adopted the 2022 Building Energy Efficiency Standards for newly constructed as well as renovated buildings. This will require builders to include solar power in new commercial structures.

The CEC aims to lead the Californian state to a 100 percent clean energy future by developing renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, transforming transportation, and investing in energy innovation. 

As the planet heats up at an unprecedented rate since the last Ice Age, countries need to ramp up their efforts in reducing carbon emissions. While efforts have been made to move to more electric modes of transportation, there is also the realization that buildings are also a major contributor to emissions. In California, homes, and businesses account for 25 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

According to the CEC, over 50 percent of Californian residences, both single-family homes, and apartment complexes were built before the first energy standards even came into force. Therefore, the building standards apply not only to new constructions but also renovations, since updating the older buildings is critical to achieving the CEC's goals. Every three years, the CEC adopts new standards aimed to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings and thus lower their GHG outputs. 

The 2022 energy efficiency standards adopted recently, focus on four main areas that apart from improving energy efficiencies will also bring down energy costs and result in better health outcomes for residents. 

As per the new standards, exhausts over kitchen cooktops are required to have higher flow rates that will result in improving exhaust of pollutants generated during cooking, leading to better indoor air quality.

Buildings constructed and renovated in the near future are required to be electric-ready with necessary circuits and panels that support the usage of cleaner equipment for purposes of heating, cooking, and transportation, whenever the house-owner chooses to adopt them. 

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Builders are also encouraged to use electric heat pumps for heating applications in the house instead of the has-powered ones that are less energy efficient. 

The CEC has also expanded the photovoltaic and battery storage standards to allow buildings to store on-site energy generated from renewable sources. While reducing the dependence on the grid, which is currently fossil-fuel-powered. This expansion applies to family homes, apartment complexes, office spaces, restaurants, schools, grocery stores as well as civic structures like convention centers, auditoriums, and theaters. 

The implementation of this code will deliver $1.5 billion in consumer benefits and reduce 10 million metric tons of GHGs over the next 30 years, the CEC tweeted. This is the equivalent of taking approximately 2.2 million cars off the road for a year.

The updated standards will now be submitted to the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC), which will consider them for approval in the month of December. When approved, these will go into effect on January 1, 2023, giving affected parties a year to prepare for the changes.

Recently, the Welsh government unveiled a £250 million (US$348 million) plan to build low-carbon homes, where house owners could also sell back excess power generated from their homes to the grid. 

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