SACRAMENTO (CBSLA/AP) — The California Energy Commission Wednesday approved a policy requiring solar panels on all new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020.

While the CEC approved the requirement, it still needs backing from the state’s Building Standards Commission. The state updates its building codes, including energy efficiency standards, every three years.

It is the first such mandate nationwide. The commission estimates solar panels would boost construction costs for a single-family home by roughly $10,000. But consumers would get that money and more back in energy savings, according to the commission.

Representatives from construction groups, public utilities and solar manufacturers all spoke in support of the plan, which they’ve helped the commission develop for years. No industry groups spoke in opposition.

While the new standards were praised by environmentalists, detractors point out that California is already dealing with a historic housing shortage.

“We’re not building enough housing already,” Bill Watt, former president of the Orange County Building Industry Association, told the Orange County Register. “Why not just pause for a little while, focus on the affordability and housing issues, then circle back?”

“That’s just going to drive the cost up and make California, once again, not affordable to live,” California Assemblyman Brian Dahle, the chamber’s Republican leader, said Tuesday.

About 117,000 new single-family homes and 48,000 multi-family units will be built in 2020, the commission estimates.

The regulations include exceptions when solar panels aren’t feasible — such as on a home shrouded in shade — or cost effective. Installing storage batteries or allowing community-shared solar generation are available options.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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