California's new solar mandate

Curious what you all think of this?

For obvious climate/weather reasons, it likely wouldn’t fly in other states, but it’s a pretty bold move.

Cool idea in theory but I worry that long term consequences of policies like these aren’t being thought through ahead of time. This new law sounds like corporate welfare for solar companies and an added expense for homeowners in upkeep and additional charges from the power company. Here in AZ the power company levies additional charges on solar customers, in essence penalizing them for moving away from the grid. Power companies could easily follow the same playbook against Californians. Also with California being one of the most expensive housing markets in the country this will only make the problem worse.


senseinaz is right, it makes it worse in the long run… my home was originally built in the 1950s, destroyed by fire in 2015, rebuilt in 2016… although it was rebuilt with 2x4 walls, unlike the the 1950s home it was, it now has insulation levels much higher and more energy features like newer dual pane windows… it also has all the extras like tile floors and led cans lights throughout… my wife and I have had the home now since Jul 2017, so I have a good history of energy use… our highest electric bill in the summer was $260 and lowest in the winter was $20, with an average cost of $0.13/kWh… not bad, and if it stayed that way, we could live comfortably…

but in upcoming 2019, Southern California Edison (SCE) is going to switch all customers to TOU (time of use) rates… something that the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) authorized a few years ago… we were on tiered rates, that we personally were averaging $0.13/kWh since we bought our home… so, the TOU rates that we are going to be getting has an off-peak around $0.28/kWh and on-peak about $0.48/kWh in the summer and about $0.10 cheaper in the winter… with 2 college kids and a teenager under my roof, my wife and I, she works nights and I work days… so someone is home nearly every hour of the day… these new TOU rates would put our projected utility costs near to what our mortgage is, somewhere in the $400-600/mo range with the same usage that we’ve had over the past year…

I seen this coming and put solar on my home, enough to cover 120% of my past use… this way, we would be able to keep living in our home and not have to struggle to keep it… in my personal opinion, these TOU rates were allowed just for the fact that so many have gone solar already and the forced solar on new construction starting Jan 1 2020… SCE, PG&E and other utilities are losing customers, and can’t maintain their grids and don’t have nearly enough storage… the utilities have such an issue, that they literally give energy away to other states because they have too much generation and not enough storage… this will only get worse…

so requiring solar on all new construction starting Jan 1 2020, nice idea on paper… but really, its just another tax on us all… and with CA being less than 2% of the overall pollution in the world, its not going to make the difference they hoped for when all these policies were put in place… but the politics is, to pull the plug on it now, would create such a whirlwind of backlash, they would never be able to do anything like it again… so they are committed to the freight train they are on… unfortunately for all of Californians…


Like others, I think that this law will have lots of unintended consequences plus will affect housing affordability. At the same time, I think it will also shine a light on much needed fixes in our energy systems and housing policy in CA, especially areas where policy is totally off kilter:

  • Utility pricing and regulation - utilities are incentivized to build stuff that’s not needed and paid in ways that don’t align with costs.

    • incentivized to build new capacity when none is needed, because they can charge consumers for it.
    • not paid as much for energy storage as new generation
    • not paid for transmisssion and distribution based on how expensive it is to serve each customer.
    • consumer pays for accidents that don’t involve full out negligence (perhaps the Camp Fire)
  • Housing is heavily biased toward existing residents

    • Prop 13, and especially “intergenerational” grandfathering for residential and commercial properties.
    • Much higher regulatory cost placed on new residential housing vs. existing residential.

But these things need to be sorted out anyway, and lots of other forces, beyond this legislation, are already pressuring lawmakers.

@HiTechRedNeck, I will point out that many regard the tiered pricing system, that worked so well for you, as an unfair tax for larger users, since the pricing is not connected in any way with the with the cost of service, and the the money collected in the higher tiers is used to subsidize the lowest tier. But it is very hard in this country for utilities and the post office (natural monopolies) to charge individuals based on true cost of service.

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I knew this was coming and I think overall it’s a good thing. Yes there will be some problems with it and the cost of housing would theoretically go up, but on the other hand the cost of living in that house should go down by the amount normally paid to the Power company so it’s should be a wash. I’m going to install Solar myself and I’m in Idaho where we do have winter, but the payment on my solar loan will be $25 a month cheaper than my average payment to the Power company, so I’ll save $300 a year while paying off my solar loan and a lot more once that loan is paid off. It should also hopefully help decrease the cost of solar as there will be a larger demand for the panels, so technology should improve/get cheaper, so overall I think it’ll be a good thing.

well, now that new homes will meet the states goals by 2020, existing homes will be next… based on the state’s policies and goals, the CA Energy Commission has until 2035 to get all existing homes in CA to 50% below 1990 emission levels… and until 2045 to get CA energy grids and sources to 100% renewable energy… those are tall orders… existing homes: they’ve been prepping energy consultants and building depts for the last decade… they plan to restructure the home valuation & financing policies… basically, they plan to require energy audits every time a home changes hands (bought / transfer of deeds) and force upgrades to meet code… the grid costs: rates are just going to go up and up…

its going to get worse… and no where to hide…

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Government rules like this always end up following the laws of unintended consequences. Government should stay the hell out of this and let the market decide what makes sense.

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I’m with you there… smaller gov… bigger markets… no excessive gov oversight… amen…

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I’m all for a free market and I don’t think CA is approaching the problem right with this requirement, but I also know that free markets don’t work without some help in two areas:

  • externalities - where a supplier doesn’t pay the full cost associated with their product. Some of the costs of either building or using a product are passed on to others, or society as a whole. Examples: pollution/CO2, overfishing, cigarettes. In these situations, economists recommend “internalizing the externality”, making the supplier/user pay the full cost associated with that product and its use. If the
    that was the case, users would make very different, and better decisions for society.

  • natural monopolies - like utilities, postal service. Society has deigned that many of these cannot set prices as a monopoly to maximize profits, and also must serve virtually anyone in their service are regardless of associated costs. Typically, prices are set such that the users with lower associated costs subsidize the ones with higher costs.

Electricity is at the intersection of these two places where the free market fails without outside help. But I don’t agree with the current approaches.

It seems to me that the timing of this is right with the high cost of electricity in California and the record low cost of residential solar. Basically, it seems to override aesthetic concerns as well as the tendency for most builders to not install anything that makes financial sense but that home buyers don’t value appropriately at the purchase window. Historical examples include insulation, energy efficient HVAC, etc.

I do worry a bit about the sizing of the systems, though - though I’d guess there’s a lot of wiggle room with new construction since wholesale purchasing and integration into the new construction process will bring prices down substantially from a “retail” installation.

I wonder if new subdivisions will have issues to overcome with reversed power flow given that the entire subdivision will be generating a great deal of excess power during peak daylight hours?

I’d also hope that homebuilders will integrate smart power monitors like Sense into their builds as well.

@dianecarolmark, I can say in my experiences here in CA: being an Energy Consultant for over a decade, a HERS rater for a few years of that, and having a background in computer sciences… for me, understanding the energy code/building sciences here is easy… but contractors are too cheap to do it right in most cases… that is the number one reason for the strict code we have… I see contractors spend more money on one energy feature, just to get out of another… I see it every day… wasting thousands of dollars to circumvent a code they could easily embrace…

the 2019 energy code that goes into effect Jan 1 2020, that requires solar for all new construction is just a small part of the latest rules… in the 2016 energy code, we had a 23% jump in energy efficient features… the 2019 code will have another 53% jump… better window values and double walls in some cases… from one point I think its totally out of hand… but, I’ve embraced it… tried to convince contractors of how to embrace it… but so far, my thoughts fall on deaf ears…

I agree with you that there are issues just being realized about entire subdivisions generating power and no where to store it… CA utilities have been giving away excess energy to neighboring states just because of that very thing… nearly all the utilities in CA are investor owned, and they are systematically putting profits ahead of infrastructure… and the PUC (Public Utilities Commission), just keeps bailing them out by allowing them to raise rates… that’s the very reason why I installed a PV system this past Oct… just to get out the rate increases for 2019, that for me, would’ve tripled my past bills… my past bills were still nearly a nickle over the national average… its insane…