Following a mandate that took effect last year requiring new single-family homes and multi-family buildings up to three stories in California be built to incorporate solar photovoltaic systems, state regulators have now voted to make solar–as well as battery storage systems—compulsory at both newly constructed and renovated high-rise residential developments and commercial buildings. That includes offices, schools, retail stores, restaurants, medical buildings, various types of civic spaces, and more.
Approved unanimously by the five members of the California Energy Commission (CEC), the new rules, if adopted by the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) as anticipated, would go into effect starting on January 1, 2023. The CBSC is expected to vote on the CEC-adopted 2022 Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Energy Code) in December of this year, giving builders a full year to ready themselves for the requirements. The standards are updated every three years.
As detailed earlier this week by the New York Times, the updated plan, which is the latest major move in California’s shift away from fossil fuels at a time when such transitions are all the more urgent, also stipulates new single-family homes be wired in a manner that makes it easier for homeowners to make the switch from natural gas-powered heat and appliances to solar-sourced electric if and when they choose to do so. The plan also encourages electric heat-pump technologies for space and water heating and strengthens ventilation standards for improved indoor air quality.
Homes and businesses use nearly 70 percent of California’s electricity and are responsible for a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the CEC. The commission noted that the 2022 Energy Code is estimated to provide $1.5 billion in consumer benefits while reducing 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, which is roughly equivalent to removing 2.2 million cars off the road for a year.
“Buildings profoundly influence our health, environment and economy. Into the future they will use less energy and emit less pollution while still being comfortable and healthy,” said commissioner J. Andrew McAllister, the CEC’s lead commissioner on energy efficiency, in a statement. “The 2022 Energy Code firmly pivots California’s buildings toward the clean, low-carbon technologies that are the bedrock on which our collective path forward will rest. This foundation will help the state meet its critical long-term climate and carbon neutrality goals.”
Per the 2021 edition of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Market Insight report, the Golden State leads the pack when it comes to cumulative solar capacity installed followed by Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona.
Lindsay Buckley, a spokeswoman for the CEC, relayed to the Times that while the CBSC’s adoption of the plan isn’t a sure thing, such proposals have historically never been denied after being green-lit by the state’s energy commission.