New Solar Energy Requirements for Residential Construction and the Transition to Energy Independence
Theodore L. Senet
Theodore L. Senet, Esq., LEED AP BD+C, is a partner of Gibbs Giden Locher Turner Senet & Wittbrodt LLP. He practices in the areas of construction, environmental, insurance, and real property law; represents public agencies, private developers, contractors, and building product manufacturers; and teaches construction law as an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.*
California is radically changing the home-building industry. Beginning on January 1, 2020, new homes and low-rise (three stories or less) residential buildings in California must install solar power systems on the building site, or provide solar power as part of a community-shared, solar-electric-generation system. The solar energy requirements are intended to reduce the amount of fossil-fuel-produced energy consumed by homes and are an incremental step toward California’s long-term goal of zero net energy ("ZNE") buildings. A ZNE building is "an energy efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual consumed energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable generated energy."1 California’s new solar energy requirements and zero energy goals should provide homeowners and renters with lower monthly housing costs, compel residential developers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, significantly decrease the cost of solar installations, and accelerate the modernization of residential building design and construction.2 This modernization could spark a transformation in home-building and energy consumption well beyond California’s borders.
I. DEVELOPMENT OF SOLAR ENERGYâTHE SPARK FOR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE