Having one solution required means you can’t innovate to find a cheaper or better solution to the same problem.
The answer in this context would be to require a total net power draw for the home. Adding a production unit just gives more room in the calculation and not having one might mean more expensive insulation or smaller windows are needed instead.
This solar requirement has been a long time coming. I haven’t looked at the new standard, it’s called Title 24 2019 because it’s still under development but they might just pushing the energy budget low enough that solar is effectively required. Otherwise it may be required for prescriptive title 24 compliance. The article talks about square footage and 2kW minimum systems which to me sounds like the prescriptive requirement.
Personally I’ve never been able to use prescriptive for design reasons but some contractors for sure do, and they don’t understand the concept of modeling.
So yeah, you can innovate all you want and CA set it up that way for years now.
While I instinctively agree, does anyone know of any research in this area?
I can speculate about possible downsides to legislating a performance specification rather than a solution: Giving people every possible option could result in people gaming the system, it could hamper investment because it creates uncertainty about what the future solution will be, or it could simply reduce transparency because the specification may be written to favor one solution anyway. That's just speculation, however; we need data and expertise.
Perhaps we should discourage people from building in shady places, but that would have a side effect of encouraging people to build where they need more AC.
A more market-based approach might be to just tax electrical use higher. Unfortunately, that would be a very regressive tax. (I don't live in California, but I understand you have or used to have a sort of sliding scale, where if you use more energy than average you pay a higher rate per kwh.)
Another option would be to require new power generation to be built along with new construction, but allow builders to decide how to do that and allow them to share power generation. For instance, a developer building a hundred houses might put solar on each house or they might build (or buy a partial stake in) a solar farm or wind turbine being built outside of town where land is cheap. The tricky part there is to ensure that any new power generation is actually being built specifically for the new construction, and builders aren't just piggybacking on power generation that would have been built anyways.
Which is exactly why mandating a specific solution like rooftop solar doesn't make sense. Your counterargument actually somewhat supports the original argument :)
Forcing solar on a house like that is suboptimal, forcing a certain generation metric is even worse.
Not good either. Just let people pay for what they use. Each person can decide how to optimize for his or her needs.
It could work for rentals if there was enough empty places that people could be picky about the energy efficiency of the houses they rent, but that's likely not the current situation.
There are a lot of nutjobs running around saying they want Coal back, the President of the United States, for example, despite Coal being more expensive than Solar now.
So, to answer your question in earnest, Fossil Fuel Energy Companies and their bought-and-paid elected officials.
The people that want less energy for more (immediate) money are the people that want external costs priced into retail energy prices, but that's just because they don't want environmental damage to be treated as a non-cost.
This is great but has the unfortunate side-effect of some energy suppliers telemarketing to try to get you to switch to their "lower rates", which inevitably increase again after a few months.
So check the system in your state, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Part of the decision-making basket you evaluate in deciding to live somewhere includes the cost of energy with the cost of its externalities.
Another way to do it is to tax it when the utility buys it. This moves the math around for where they source power from.
Most people don't realize that if you tax the externalities, that is basically a regressive tax on the poor.
Wealthy people typically have a larger carbon footprint than those who aren't well off. Think flights, buying a car more frequently, etc.
If everyone has the same carbon footprint, the tax is strictly neutral. If people have different footprints, money flows from polluters to non-polluters.
That's easy, occupant must follow recommended behavior.
And be glad that Genetic Control is not issuing a four foot restriction on Humanoid height.
( https://www.google.com/search?q=Get+%27Em+Out+by+Friday )
Your point isn't incorrect, but it's at best misplaced and mistimed. You should have been yelling about this when the law was being written, not now that it's passed. To those of us who care about the subject, your pedantry is harmful, not helpful.
If a bad law is bad, we should definitely continue to criticize it, if only for the purpose of influencing FUTURE laws.
Its a drop in the bucket of NIMBYism tho.
The decision to implement California car emissions standards was not a heavy handed or half baked idea. The Rand corporation was called in to help figure out a solution other than catalytic converter and the ultimate decision was signed off by Ronald "not a fan of regulation" Reagan. Not only have there been improvements in the catalytic converter but also there's this company called Tesla that has innovated and provided an alternative. Your suggestion of goals was implemented in the last administration and is in the process of being removed. Lobbyists kill goals/limits.
A total net power draw is regulating the users behavior. Is that what you want?
Smaller windows or better insulation...? While home A/C is a factor, this is not about the user. This is about clean power for California (whether it's effective at producing the power is a different conversation). Users can still get better insulation or smaller windows or innovate as they see fit. California had two nuclear reactors. It has shut them down. This legislation (which I didn't know about till today) is one in a long string of movements toward cleaner air starting back in 1967.
An unrelated note, I hear all this talk about money As others have said, this is an economic non-starter for a home in California. One thing that has not been mentioned is that currently home appraisers do not consider solar panels in the value of a home.
You can't really call Tesla an alternative to regular cars with a price point of $80K (plus options, plus taxes). I know there are people in Silicon Valley who have so much money that $80k is like pocket change to them, but even in SV that's a minority. In the meantime, I've bought a car for $2k several years ago and it still runs (admittedly, it required some repairs on the way, but still).
> home appraisers do not consider solar panels in the value of a home.
Insurers do, as I recently found out. So maybe appraisers will catch up too.
You bought a car for $2k, but it was a used car. The fair comparison might be a Nissan Versa S, the cheapest new car in America at $12,780. Or maybe your car has more features than that, I don't know. That still puts the Model 3 at a multiple of the cost of that car, but hardly to an insane extent. Hell, in California you can, today, with rebates (yes, you have to pay some money up front) buy a new BMW i3 for about $22k. Of course, that's a particularly limited electric car, but then again, it also has features a $12,780 Nissan Versa does not, so you could argue the Versa is also limited.
We're not there yet, but we're getting there.
Actually a better argument from your point would be that the mandatory reverse cameras, airbags, safety cells, safety belts, ABS, etc, make new cars more expensive than they SHOULD be. In many countries you can get a brand new car for way less than $12,780. Of course, it's less safe and pollutes more than the new car you buy in the US, but there's a tradeoff in price.
Then again, that tradeoff trickles down to the used market, and pretty soon you have a $2k used car that HN buyers can buy, which is safer, cleaner, and more fuel efficient than an equivalent used car in a 2nd world country.
Or at least, that's how it works in theory.
This is a good thing. You'd be hard pushed to claim it has brought the prices of cars up.
Likewise if all new houses must have solar, it's just going to become the norm and everyone will benefit. Bravo!
I wish Australia had made double glazed windows mandatory (as well as solar panels). Alas, most people (well, at least politicians) have no idea what you're talking about, and prices are way up there.
I live in a house built in 1920s. Ever seen someone driving a Model T?
That was kinda my point :)
* Increases the cost of homes
* Gives solar power industry a boost in a way that's hard to get rid of--they will lobby to keep this even if other industries are around and it'll probably never change
* No incentive to research new energy technology in the meantime
And decreases the energy bill by a very similar amount of what an increase in the mortgage would be if the cost was 100% passed on. Regardless, in much of California the price of homes has little to do with the cost of building them. So another possibility is buildable land gets a little cheaper because building is more expensive and homes are priced by what the market will bear, not by material cost.
Let us assume that there is simply a hardware expense because the builders already have roofers and electricians. It’s such a fraction of a mouse fart (as mentioned) that going solar will essentially pay for itself after 2 years.
I can see builders charging a premium for the "electric car package" or the "double your consumption" service but something like 3W of production for each square foot per month would be amazing.
Sure, this is true iff a) the home has a nice south-facing roof, b) without trees in the way and c) under the current tariff design in most of California.
Some homes are built in wooded areas. Deciduous trees on the south side of the house (in the northern hemisphere) 1) shade in the summer, 2) allow the sun to warm in the winter are 3) are attractive.
Finally, regulated-monopoly utilities will continue to pass their costs to their customers. They will change the designs of their rates to continue to recoup their costs. So what might be saved in utilities costs today won't necessarily be saved over the life of the mortgage.
In a narrow sense; TCO, however, may be lower. (EDIT: TFA itself indicates +$9500 new home cost, -$19,000 30-year electricity cost as the average impact.)
> Gives solar power industry a boost in a way that's hard to get rid of--they will lobby to keep this even if other industries are around and it'll probably never change
Sure, the solar lobby will seek to preserve this as is as the landscape changes. Competing industries will seek either to remove or broaden it to accommodate other approaches to the same policy objective. The homebuilding industry lobbied against it, and it still was passed. “One industry will lobby to keep it” does not imply “it will never change”, or the past absence of the rule would never have changed.
> No incentive to research new energy technology in the meantime
Even with 100% residential solar deployment—not just on new construction—there’s a lot of energy demand that doesn't cover and plenty of incentive to find an efficient way of meeting that demand.
If homes had to be built to a better standard by legislature (Better insulation, or solar roofing, or whatever), it would, in the long term, drive down the price of land, but keep home prices similar.
Not to mention that you cannot retrofit solar panels on a home at the same interest rate as you can get on a mortgage. Forcing banks to lend money for these installations actually makes it cheaper for the homeowner.
Being specific has disadvantages, but the big advantage is that most decisions can be made by contractors reading the code instead of requiring an (expensive) engineering calculation. Engineering can be 1/3 of the cost of a remodel as it is. Increasing the engineering cost gives a big advantage to tract home builders who can amortize the engineering across a subdivision, which results in suburban malaise.
For instance, current energy codes require a certain R-value of insulation in walls, so that any contractor can go to Home Depot and buy the insulation marked with that R value and expect it to pass inspection. If the code said "Homes may only lose X BTU/year through all surfaces" it'd require a lot of engineer time per house to work it all out.
It's great that solar has evolved from being so expensive that it could only be installed in the most carefully optimized system, to something where you can just slap a few panels on a roof and expect reasonable results.
To reduce transmission losses, among other reasons.
> California has vast desert areas to tile with solar panels at less expense.
Even if it would be less build/maintenance expense per unit of delivered energy, a lot of California's vast deserts are either federally protected, and so not available even if it was smart to use them otherwise or already being irrigated and used for agriculture. You can't really cover a farm with solar panels without killing it's function like you can a house.
It's true that they more frequently get modified, often repeatedly and radically, until little trace of the original remains.
But anyhow, this isn't a law it's a regulation, and regulations are somewhat more likely to be removed (sometimes, because removal or even modification of the law under which the regulation was adopted forces this, independent of what the regulator would choose without that constraint.)
Another example is the EU regulation on incandescent bulbs. Stops people buying what they always did and helps pushing prices down for alternatives.
So it may be the case that the time and political capital spent on this path foreclosed other options and end up creating a rigid solution that prevents creativity in achieving the goals.
I also think there should be a progressive component to the requirement. The standards could be looser for a $100K house vs a $1M house or perhaps a progressive tax credit of some kind.
One exciting thing about this is that the costs of solar will be much lower for solar than otherwise. All homebuilders will have to make their designs solar ready, soft costs such as customer acquisition will be lower for solar companies, economies of scale, etc.
FWIW: very, very few houses (especially in CA where the overwhelming bulk of homes are built in arid biomes with very short trees!) have roofs that are actually shaded. A "shady house" means a house with trees nearby that shade the yard and the periphery of the roof. Take a look at Google Maps for your neighborhood for proof of this. The roofs are sunny almost always.
Consider that Germany has plenty of locations lucky to get 1-2 hours of direct sunlight per day and yet it has outpaced the US for many years.
New construction surrounded by redwood trees would probably still be able to justify solar thermal panels on the roof in addition to PV's, because it might make off-grid construction possible.
How do you rectify the free market innovation that was the VW/Audi/Porsche diesel scandal? There are mandated emissions requiments and the businesses are free to innovate solutions to meet them. Result: they just lied and cheated, in support of a specific technology that simply can’t meet the requirements but that they had made a century long commitment to. And became the largest car company in the world while doing it. How do you prevent net power draw regs from a) not resulting in just shitty home construction b) not encouraging cheating, many materials might not even be sourced from the US (like Canadian lumber) if you have to factor net energy into construction and c) not resulting in homes that require aftermarket additions like air conditioners which would in turn require new regulations? Or worse, really jacking up home prices when you simply can’t build new homes. what if you buy a house but then operate it differently than expected? Energy star numbers on TVs are this way, there are some really efficient TVs but nobody hardly ever operates their tv at those most efficient brightness settings, the viewing sucks.
It seems like you might want to reevaluate the rules in 10 years, it’s part of a big energy initiative they are taking on though. There is also room for a ton of grid innovation to make this work out reasonably. This law seems pretty simple in terms of the bigger goals the state has.
This is why ideas like this are stupid. There are lots of open fields where we could put solar panels, and the gains from putting them directly on houses are close to none.
Say it costs $100 to install the solar roof. What if I were to invest the same $100 in a company that is building solar farms in Nevada and providing that electricity to California ? Wouldn't that give additional benefit to the planet ?
What if you expand from solar to all renewable including R&D labs ?
When you build a house in bay area you already more efficient because of relatively moderate temperature than the farmer's home in Fresno or Lake Shasta.
I think the politicians who get voted in power because of bay area yuppies have forgotten that their state is also an agricultural state with many hardworking people.
>I just became aware in the last few days of the proposal in the new building energy efficiency standards rule making to mandate rooftop solar on all new residential buildings. I want to urge you not to adopt the standard. I, along with the vast majority of energy economist, believe that residential rooftop solar is a much more expensive way to move towards renewable energy than larger solar and wind installations. The savings calculated for the households are based on residential electricity rates that are far above the actual cost of providing incremental energy, so embody a large cross subsidy from other ratepayers. This would be a very expensive way to expand renewables and would not be a cost-effective practice that other states and countries could adopt to reduce their own greenhouse gas footprints.
>I agree and would add that allowing more building near transit and other hubs as with California’s rejected SB827 would not only lower housing prices, rather than raise them as with this proposal, it would also be a much better way of reducing carbon emissions and saving energy.
In an ideal world SB827 makes sense, but it was rejected. So I'm glad CA is trying something more pragmatic instead of waiting for a 'perfect' solution. Even if something similar to SB827 is passed in the future - worse case, we'll end up a bunch of rooftop solar installations. That's not so terrible.
Without even researching it, I feel pretty sure Lennar, very active in CA, lobbied for this. It is probably a net win for the environment, and our energy independence, but these guys have found a way to turn it into a recurring revenue stream that benefits them the most in the long run and not the consumer.
I have consulted a lawyer and they advised me it quite likely violates consumer protection laws in my state. Other states have had similar difficulties with shady solar providers cashing in on this wave of relatively inexpensive panels.
Inefficient and expensive systems can do harm, regardless of the good intention behind this law. Rooftop solar has substantial embedded carbon and impacts on the grid that could easily outweigh the small benefits. We need a solution that provides the right incentives to use it when it makes sense, and not use it when it doesn't make sense, rather than a hamfisted blanket mandate.
Without knowing the numbers, I'm really just speculating, though; my point is just that it's not a given that this will increase everyone's cost of living.
"Bundling it into construction" as in whoever builds the house pays the upfront cost of the solar installation? This would inevitably pass the cost on through increasing the value of the home. So homes in CA will be harder to afford and mortgages will carry larger payments.
Sure electricity costs will go down some amount to marginally offset the increased mortgage payment. But to definitively claim they will go down _more_ than mortgage payments rise is a ridiculous claim in my opinion because implicit in that claim is the assumption that everyone is missing out on this way to save money and needs the government to impose this mandate for them to realize it.
I think that is an unfounded assumption. It's hard to get an extra loan on top of a mortgage, even if you have a very good use for it. That's why passing the cost on through is not a neutral effect, but a helpful one.
I'd rather have cheap housing, but if the NIMBY's are going to have their way, I can at least extract more money from them for useful purposes.
The actual dynamics of the SB827 defeat don't really clearly support that. There is certainly an opportunity for a YIMBY/PHIMBY convergence on density policy.
In fact it would be cheaper since installation would be much cheaper on a large scale and solar farm can buy panels in bulk.
The great thing about the requirement is not that it is the absolutely most carbon friendly solution but that it creates a viable alternative to the PG&E monopoly on energy in California. They pretty much can effectively hike prices at will under the current setup. We need to reduce the amount of pricing power of all monopolies via credible competition.
They don't even seem to be in much tension, much less opposed.
That said, currently it's usually cheaper to stay grid connected vs 100% solar. But, the economics of that can shift around as solar becomes more common.
This decree, of course, does not do all that but instead covers a narrow class consisting of one product (new homes) with one requirement (solar roofs). It does not affect existing homes. It does not affect homes in Nevada, Arizona, or anywhere else in America. It does not affect homes in any other part of the world. It therefore can be guaranteed, in itself, to have the most trivial of all impacts on the real world global environment. But it will have a very real impact on people living in the affected jurisdiction, not the least of which will be severely limiting their choices concerning new homes and also adding to the price they pay for such homes. On top of all that, it empowers politicians and bureaucrats who will be further incentivized to find new ways to limit choices in the future in the name of symbolic gestures done in the name of environmental concerns. Today, new homes. Tomorrow, existing ones. Next week, cars. After that, whatever experts and technocrats decree should be the subject of new coercive restrictions. Perhaps this is justified because of some ideal that it promotes or perhaps it is just a sell out to the solar lobby. But, justified or not, it certainly curtails freedom and choice and for what? A symbolic gesture at best or some hidden less-than-noble purpose at worst.
One could argue that there are definite limits to a state potentially abusing its authority in extending such powers. After all, there is a transcending principle behind it having to do with the environment. Yet, that is a very elastic principle that can be bent and shaped in ways that cannot readily be contained.
And so we are left with less choice, more expense, and prospects for a more restrictive future. It may or may not be good, but the animating principle, unless it is subject to clear limits (which do not appear here) is one that poses self-evident risks for a free society.
If the question is whether a developer, local community (via zoning), or the state of California gets to make the decision about what houses in a particular area look like, I don't think I have a strong opinion, since it looks to me like collective, political decision-making either way.
I don't agree that such an authority is inherently dangerous, this kind of legislation is specifically an example where danger is explicitly reduced.
The below is an attempt to show this isn't just a noble gesture, but that environmental legislation has huge positive impacts, and is exactly the kind of thing we want a state doing.
California generates most of its power through natural gas , which the burning of creates smog, which has measureable impacts on life expectancy. Early numbers from China indicate that the difference between highly urbanized areas and less urbanized areas amount to at least 5.5 years of reduced lifespan. 
It may surprise you to find out that California, in many heavily populated areas like the Bay Area, where most people are living, actually has worse smog than that in Shanghai .
Let's try a simple model and do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of what this means for Americans:
Let's say that in the bay area, the smog is (ass-pulled in direct contradiction to my above source, so we're being conservative) half as bad as in China's urban areas, and therefore longterm exposure to smog reduces life expectancy by 3 years. Let's say that long term, solar panel usage allows California to reduce natural gas burning for power generation, which ultimately reduces smog in a way such that it halves the impact on life expectancy to 1.5 years.
There are 7 million people in the Bay area. If you're willing to buy the above model, you are saving 10.5 million years of human life just in the Bay Area by making the change, before we even begin to discuss external positive environmental impacts and subjective quality of life benefits of smog reduction.
Last thought? The average human lifespan in America is 79 years. If the above model is correct, such a change is equivalent to saving 132,000 lives. You don't notice that all this life is being lost because the effects are so diffuse.
There are times to leap to your pitchforks about the harms of the state, but environmentalism definitely isn't one of them.
Now I'm trying to do the same thing (and on the same property). The water meter is $5,000 (cash only in full), and the septic tank is $15,000. If I was also required to have solar, I'd really be screwed...
Starting to think that working in Tech isn't even worth it anymore. We don't have big government lobbyists making rules to make software more complicated 'just because' every year and thus driving cost up (and making me more money). If my math is right, I'm pretty sure per my sad story above, I'm estimating that the septic people I am trying to work with are pulling in $3k-$5k+ (profit) a week in septic installs (its only a husband and wife outfit and in an area where rent is less than $1k a month....)
Although, we don't know how similar the two projects are. Maybe one has more rock to dig through, the tank is farther away, or new tanks are better than 1980s tanks in some ways. There are many possible answers other than the cost of installing a septic tank outpaced inflation.
They are similar in that the requirements for tank size are the same and the dirt is the same (same property). What is different is caused by the regulations. The style put in in 1983 is a traditional 1000 gallon tank going out to a leach field with about 100ft of perforated pipe (known as a 'traditional' system').
But traditional systems are now banned for this soil type (clay content > 50%, even though they still work fine if designed right). The current price for a traditional system is now about $5500. But since it is banned, I have to install a 'Evapotranspirative (ET) system' which involves digging two 20'x80' pits and filling it with a special 'sandy loam' soil (which is not native to the area and has to be trucked in) and then running the perforated pipe in that. It's two to three times the work and an extra $2k - $4k in soil costs.
I don't think such a thing would be possible with today's regulations. I'm not even sure it was acceptable 30 years ago, but my grandparents never complained about it and were on good terms with the neighbors.
Yes, we do, they just focus on specific large software markets (in the last couple decades, health IT has been a huge area for this.)
So, what do you do for electricity then? Most people developing rural property near where I live love solar, they can't get enough, as it lets them go off-grid and avoid paying electricity hookup fees.
So adding 'just another' $10k to the price means I get to wait so many extra months to save money before I can even build.
increasing cost of septic tank hardware itself
increased environmental regulations
increase cost of permitting (money and time) with local government
impact fees maybe
increased insurance costs
people are making money on this, I just doubt its your tank installer
Did you factor in healthcare?
Why do you need a new water meter?
In fact I would advise you to hire the design first separately and only after you have a design get bids on the install. My grandpa got bids from several design/installers, and only after the contract was signed did he discover that all the design/install bids in the county were for a more expensive mound system. My uncle next door learned and hired the design first and then tracked down the one installed in the county that would do the cheaper system that was designed.
So digging a well, would save over 5k for water, plus the monthly charges. I guess I should have specified. I thought saying "Dig a well" was relatively self explanatory in the fact it would likely save money not only in the short run but over the long run as well.
Gg “environmentalist” Sierra Club.
FTA specifically larger housing developers have been preparing for this for years—along with the solar lobby. So dumb, CA deserves to go bankrupt and be overrun by homelessness.
Step 1: Lobby for legislation that slaps an extra $30-40k on top of every newly constructed unit.
Step 2: Lament about the lack of affordable housing, conduct exhaustive studies to pin down the reasons.
-- Ronald Reagan
California, what are you doing? Fix your housing problem!
Solar power is cost effective in California.
However that assumes constant price conditions. If there's a glut of solar installations, prices for daytime generation may fall to where it no longer offsets all evening/night consumption. Once that happens you're forced to either invest in extremely expensive battery storage, or the breakeven date gets radically extended out into the future.
Overall, it seems like a pretty "meh" investment. The people doing it are the environmental True Believers(tm). I'd rather put the money into a new bathroom at this point.
I posted in the other thread about why I think this policy is a really good idea: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17008950
Also it's only for new homes. You can still get that new bathroom.
If it was such a slam-dunk great idea, everyone would be installing solar systems right now but they aren't because it isn't clear that it makes any financial sense.
Most of the price of installing solar is the labor for getting the roofers and electrician to come out, plus in some jurisdictions an architectural study.
All of those costs come down dramatically if you’re already bringing in roofers and electricians for the normal process of building a home.
Additionally, PV panels themselves have near zero maintenance costs, and dramatically reduce maintenance/replacement costs of the underlying roof.
As a result, it is just a gargantuan failure of the market that all new homes aren’t, today, built with PV panels.
This seems like a great correction to that market failure.
mercutio2 is indirectly making the claim that PV installers are inflating the prices. He does this in an attempt to frame the investment as being better than it is, by claiming it's much cheaper than it really is. This is disingenuous.
He then makes the claim that economies of scale will magically make it even cheaper, because the roofers and electricians will already be there to build the home. This is absurd. Just because they are already building the house does not mean the craftsman will do the PV work for free. It will take them X additional hours to do it and that costs money, just about as much as it would cost for a house that has already been built.
Lastly he makes the totally false claim that PV reduces roof maintenance/repair costs. Nothing could be further from the truth! PV actually increases replacement costs, dramatically! For example:
This California regulation is a boondoggle that is being done for social/political reasons, pushed by the environmentalist lobby. It is a way of forcing consumers to purchase something they wouldn't otherwise do under the free market. Whenever you hear someone say "market failure", chances are they want the government to force you to buy something they like.
Certainly it’s true that a poorly architected solar panel system can be bad for your roof. If you know you have to design the roof for solar panels, that’s much less expensive to do in advance than to try to mitigate bad roofing materials after the fact.
For reference, I just installed solar panels on my roof. The raw cost of the panels was 25% of the full installation cost. The architect study was another 5%. Hardware to fasten the panels to my theoretically solar ready roof was another 8% of the cost.
The rest was labor.
I am shocked you think it’s controversial that dramatically less labor is required to do something at construction time than as a retrofit.
This doesn’t require any economies of scale (although I think those will also appear with this bill). It just requires that coordination costs that are already being paid at construction time not increase dramatically when adding solar panels to the list of things planned for.
Shading and cooling dark roofs is, in fact, a good way to reduce the weathering of a roof. They don’t do much for metal roofs, and they are signally inappropriate on several types of shingle roofs, but torch down roofs, which are very common in California, are in fact likely to be improved by panels, not degraded.
The contention that talking about market failures implies someone trying to sell you something doesn’t seem like it lines up well with the economists I’m familiar with, but you know, at the end of the day, we’re going to have to see how much actual builders in California charge once this bill is in full effect.
I’m perfectly willing to admit I was wrong if, in fact, the TCO of solar panels ends up being enough to make this other than an extremely good bit of legislation.
I agree the risk profile is wrong, so I offloaded the risk to SolarCity for this iteration (25 years), but if I'm still in the house when those panels expire I will almost certianly need to re-roof, and I'm hoping solar tiles are a no-brainer by that point.
22 years from now? I expect fossil fuels to be crazy expensive. I expect solar tech and home storage options to be commoditized, and I haven't seen anything to make me thing I'm wrong about any of that.
That has been known to happen in California with PG&E and CPUC. Doing a quick Google for PG&E rate increase:
The geometry of trees and solar panels changes with latitude, but in California you can still have tall trees fairly close to your house while using solar panels. Further, roof panels can also shade your roof though with proper insulation that should not be significant.
Edit: And I can't help but think of the driven up cost of roof repairs. So 10-15 years down the road when you get a leak in your roof.. now you got to pay labor to pull the panels before you can even repair the roof...
Let’s not argue against taking bold action when bold actions are required because it’s inconvenient, especially when this is a net financial win for homeowners (you’re just trading a high utility bill for a slightly higher mortgage payment). It’s a better ROI than the S&P500.
Presumably, homeowners have been doing the math and adding solar panels if it is a net financial win. Now, homeowners are required to do it whether or not it's a net financial win.
ie. the new solar installations either don't make economic sense, or it made sense all along, but homeowners were too stupid to do the math.
A lot of people do fail to do the math. Many people are not quantitatively analytical, even in situations where such analysis is in their material self-interest.
A few years ago I encountered an engineer who was really angry about lightbulb minimum efficiency standards. "I already switched to LED bulbs where it made economic sense. Anyone with a brain did! Now the government is forcing me to buy these expensive bulbs for places where they run for less than 10 hours a year, like my attic. It's worse for the environment too when you consider the additional embodied energy in LED manufacturing."
His technical analysis was perfectly sound. His social analysis wasn't. A huge number of people won't do the smart thing as soon as it becomes the smart thing. (Or maybe ever. My mom stockpiled incandescent bulbs in anticipation of efficiency standard upgrades. She also complains about how high her electric bill is, after running 8 incandescent bulbs for several hours a day in the kitchen ceiling lighting...)
Much to the annoyance of people who are perfectly able and willing to do their own analysis, it can take too much effort to judge who's rationally avoiding higher up-front costs because they won't pay off in the long run and who's just being myopic. A one-size-fits-all rule forces smarties to do something worse as the price of forcing fools to do something better. There's an aggregate benefit because the fools outnumber the smarties several times over.
Let me rephrase.
What I mean is, "or it would make sense to do it, but homeowners will be too stupid to do the math." My hypothetical is about people who 1) would not install panels but 2) installing panels would be in their individual interest.
I agree that PV technology has improved in price/efficiency.
>Many people are not quantitatively analytical, even in situations where such analysis is in their material self-interest.
That's a fair point. You're entirely right - some people will not think about it. Some people will think about it but be wrong.
My intuition is that people are still better at making the the decision themselves than if the decision is made legislatively. Let me explain why.
Firstly, I'm skeptical of residential solar. Why? Installation costs (on average) 59 cents/watt.  This would be cheaper if it were on the ground rather than on a roof. There is lots of cheap land (assuming that you don't care that it's out in the boonies.) You could put solar panels there instead. However, there is an incentive to put solar panels on a roof: net metering. The utility must buy the residential solar, even if it's useless to them. I think that this is a misaligned incentive, and it might be more efficient to have huge fields of solar panels than to have solar panels on each house.
Second, this seems like something with limited political accountability. It seems like they could have created an alternate way of complying: pay the government enough money to build an equivalent amount of solar somewhere else. Then, you can remove the exception for shaded houses/tall buildings, because they have a non-stupid way of complying. This seems like it's better for everyone involved. However, it would then be clear how much money the policy costs, rather than "homes have gotten more expensive, but it's hard to pin down how much of that is caused by the policy and how much is other factors."
But I'm not totally against this change for a couple of reasons. One is that one of my ecologist friends is really alarmed at California's use of heretofore undeveloped desert land for solar farms when rooftop capacity is so underutilized. "Just because it's not full of trees doesn't mean it's a disposable ecosystem." Now personally I think the tradeoffs are worth it to get more solar built faster and cheaper, but it's not a universal perspective. A second related reason is that I've seen large solar farms in other regions prompt community pushback from people who dislike their appearance -- similar to, if less severe than, people objecting to visible wind farms. Those objections don't come up with distributed rooftop systems.
Right now the annual energy production per dollar of upfront cost is much lower from rooftop PV systems than from large-scale utility PV systems. If California installation costs can get down to German or Australian level, the cost effectiveness will be closer to (though still less than) large solar farms. There are reasons to believe that making rooftop systems mandatory will drive American costs down closer to German/Australian costs. For example, according to the presentation you linked, German rooftop PV installers spend $0.07/watt on customer acquisition. American installers spend $0.69/watt. If every new house is required to have PV, I expect acquisition costs to go down significantly; installers can court builders instead of trying to persuade one homeowner at a time. And investment into producing a design and a bid won't ultimately be rejected with "we decided not to add solar after all." (Though it could be rejected with "the other installer made a better offer.") Having every rooftop designed to support solar from the outset also makes installation less complicated, which should lower labor costs over retrofit-installs on 20th century housing stock.
This is kind of true. Builders will do things that lower the up front price and long term value of the home, because that's how their incentives are setup.
This takes a ton of usage away from conventional power and more importantly it tells multiple industries it’s safe to make big investments because California will buy your solar panels, build your designs, etc. Everyone benefits directly from those economies of scale and research investments and indirectly from being able to pass similar laws in their states when it turns out not to wreck California.
It’s pretty straightforward. A single actor acting alone doesn’t solve the problem, everyone taking small actions does.
Trees are still great for shading windows and unlikely to interfere with panels in that role, and it takes a much bigger and older tree to shade a roof, anyway.
Rooftop solar is a drop in the bucket for multi-family buildings.
In particular, I wonder what the minimum system size is, in kilowatts. Reporting household system size in "dollars" is a poor metric because PV dollars-per-watt is changing rapidly.
The source that I linked above says "Minimum PV sizing by code will rely on results from the energy consultant’s Title 24 compliance calculations." Can anyone explain what's required to comply with Title 24? I'm looking for answers in physical units rather than currency units.
FWIW, Germany and Australia have fully-installed residential rooftop solar costs-per-watt less than half of that in the US. I'm not sure where the big cost gap comes from -- Germany and Australia have decent wages for labor and safety codes too. The hardware is commoditized and globalized. If California could match Australian costs-per-watt then this proposal would add significantly less to the initial cost of a new house and significantly increase lifetime cost savings vs. using only power from the grid.
EDIT: it looks like the final adopted proposal is 17-BSTD-02, rather than the earlier 17-BSTD-01 that I linked above. Here's the final one:
The final version says even less about minimum system size. I suppose that detail is hidden in one of the 14 documents it incorporates by reference.
I help write software that implements calculations related to Title 24 compliance, so I'll give answering this a shot.
It's described in this 289 page document (only like a fifth of it applies to residential construction). It covers a lot of things, to say the least.
At a very simplified and high level, it works like this: There are two overall ways of meeting the energy efficiency requirements. One says "meet these material specs" (prescriptive). The other says "be at least this efficient" (performance).
The prescriptive approach has requirements describing things like all walls must be at least this well insulated and any heating/cooling system fans must be at least this efficient.
The performance approach does a performance simulation for both the proposed house design and for that same design, but built to the prescriptive spec. The design passes if the proposed design uses less energy in the simulation.
The document you've linked says both approaches will now require solar panels (so you can't "just" be energy efficient).
My guess is that you'll have to add at least as much solar as the current minimum required to get credit for doing so, which is described in section 2.2.3 in this document.
... actually specifies the requirements.
14. Photovoltaic Requirements. All low-rise residential buildings shall have a photovoltaic (PV) system meeting the minimum qualification requirements as specified in Joint Appendix JA11, with annual electrical output equal to or greater than the dwelling’s annual electrical usage as determined by Equation 150.1-C:
kWPV = (CFA * A) / 1000 + (NDwell * B)
kWPV = kWdc size of the PV system
CFA = Conditioned floor area
NDwell = Number of dwelling units
A = Adjustment factor from Table 150.1-C
B = Dwelling adjustment factor from Table 150.1-C
(I'm not going to try to copy the table into this comment.)
I also found this document digging around recent additions to the public docket site:
It says "The specific minimum size of the system is based on the size of the building and number of dwellings and can vary between 2 and 7 kilowatts output per dwelling..."
Which is less specific, but it's nice to see upper and lower minimum capacity requirements without having to consult a table.
As long as carbon costs can't be priced into the market, the solutions are going to be short-sighted, politically motivated/maintained, and inefficient.
Why wouldn't that always be the case? What's different about this case where this expedient choice is proper but other's aren't?
There is an aspect of creating a viable alternative in California to the 'charge what you feel like monopoly that leads to annual increases even as costs to produce go down':
I don't think a deeper analysis is required. Anything that meets those requirements will also be passed.
I am all in favor of this. Scale will only drive the cost of the tech down. TX should follow this as should AZ, NM and every other state that is mostly "sunshine".
I am schedule to get a Tesla Solar roof. Almost seems like I should wait another year or 2.
Instead, I'd very much like to choose a provider by myself, with a good reputation, and choose what kind of deal I can get on it, what are payment options, etc. There are a lot of options on the market. Pre-packaging the deal cuts off these options and takes the decision from me - unless I build the house by myself, I will no longer have an option of negotiating and choosing these things independently from the house itself.
California should instead be focusing on things like requiring rentals to provide EV charging for all tenants.
Nearly half of CA residents don't own their homes. Until some initiative forces their landlords to install EV infrastructure, the majority of these people won't even consider buying an EV at their next car purchase.
It strikes me as an urgent priority to remove all barriers to people owning EVs en masse, especially considering how long automobiles last. A major selling point of EVs is always finding your vehicle at 100% in the morning. Tenants who have to find places away from home to charge their vehicles for 1+ hours will rarely buy one.
1) It's not enough power. Yet. So you'll need to draw from the grid.
2) Sometimes it's cloudy and you need to draw from the grid.
Given you need to still draw from the grid, but aren't paying as much... what does that do to the quality or maintenance cost per use for the grid? Do people who aren't on solar gets charged more per kW/h? A move to push them to get solar? Do people with solar get hit with a "grid maintenance" fee for not paying their fair share of grid maintenance (previously built in to their electric bill)? Do we raise taxes? Do we let infrastructure crumble?
I think solar is great, no question. But better if capacity is built through solar plants, that use the existing grid, rather than mandated as part of individual home construction.
Plus... and this is the part that bugs me... does this mean we can't build houses in the shade? Will we have to tear down old trees, or build taller houses than our neighbors have, in order to meet some quota for energy production... what if I want to have a roof-top patio? What if a new technology comes along... let's call it "Solar 2"... and it's better. Are we forbidden to use it until the laws are changed? What if it's just better in my opinion for my life... can I still use it, or am I locked in to whatever standards the State of California deems is best for everyone?
Yeah this law is going to suck.
Right on. Much of the cost of being on the grid is the grid itself. My power company is a co-op. They aren't out to rob me, but the monthly fee just to be hooked up is pretty high. Here it is because the population is thin and a good percentage of homes are vacation/cabin, so they aren't using very much for many months, but they want it to work when they show up. I think it might be similar when people quit using as much on a regular basis, but still want the power company to provide on a whim (theirs or nature). The cost to be on the grid, even if you don't ever use it is going to rise.
I propose we make a law that says any home that sells for greater than the Freddie Mac super conforming loan limit (currently $679,650) must be retrofitted to have a net energy draw of zero or less from the grid (with rules about exceptions for shade and roof angles and whatnot).
This would solve a lot of problems with this bill: It would exempt all the folks who are selling cheap homes throughout the state, it would apply to both old and new homes, and it allows for new technologies that don't exist yet or are cost prohibitive, instead of require solar panels.
It wouldn't really affect prices much, because there is already a flattening at the Freddie Mac limits, and when you get to the super conforming level, a solar install only represents 5% or less today (but I imagine the prices would fall with economies of scale).
How would you do this, when a huge percentage of that engergy draw comes from appliances that don't get sold with the house?
What you're proposing would likely result in home sellers 'installing' tiny cheap refrigerators and washer/dryer combos that would immediately be thrown out by the home buyers and replaced with the ones they actually want.
With rule for a specified list of standard appliances that the draw would be calculated based on the higher of actual consumption of installed appliances (if any) or standard values based on something like mid-range energy star consumption for a specified feature set.
Your appliances would be your choice, and your shade, etc. But it would be based on local medians, so that for most people it would be in line.
The newer model codes now require fire suppression sprinkler systems to be installed in detached residential structures, which is pretty ludicrous. For homes on a well or without sufficient pressure from municipal source, a water tank in the attic is required!
People don't realize that they may need to purchase special riders on their home insurance as water damage caused by the sprinkler systems may not be covered, while the fire would be. A friend of mine in the fire department reports that these systems get activated more from false alarms than by actual fires, and that many people lose most of what they own. The home owner is not allowed to turn off the sprinklers, so the fire department has to go out and do it.
0 - https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/no-doorknobs-allowed-in-new-va...