The California Energy Commission’s five-member panel voted unanimously Aug. 11 to require solar panels and battery storage in new commercial buildings and high-rise residential projects beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The proposal now will be considered by the state’s Building Standards Commission, which is expected to include it in an overall revision of the building code in December.
The energy plan also calls for new homes to be wired in ways that ease and even encourage conversion of natural-gas heating and appliances to electric sources.
The commercial buildings affected by the plan would be hotels, offices, medical offices and clinics, retail and grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and civic spaces such as theaters, auditoriums and convention centers.
The provisions would supplement requirements that took effect in 2020 mandating that new single-family homes and multifamily dwellings up to three stories high include solar power.
The commission said homes and businesses use nearly 70% of California’s electricity and are responsible for a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal reportedly would reduce emissions over 30 years as much as if nearly 2.2 million cars were taken off the road for a year.
According to the commission, any increase in construction costs is expected to be minimal; adding solar power and storage during construction is considered more cost-effective than retrofitting.
Many California cities have building codes that restrict or ban natural gas in new construction, but the changes advanced in the proposal significantly would extend the move away from fossil fuels.