The California Energy Commission approved a measure  to allow housing developers to build homes without solar panels. Over 30 bipartisan lawmakers endorsed the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s  (SMUD) application to build its own large-scale community solar site. Passing the measure allows developers to bypass the new 2020 California Solar Mandate.

On January 1st, 2020 it became a requirement in California for new homes to be constructed to generate solar electricity (typically through panels placed on the roof). The new mandate is expected to be a major step forward for California’s efforts to achieve 100 percent clean energy while giving consumers a more reliable source for their power, and is expected to zero out energy consumption in newly-constructed homes covered by the standards.

The Solar Mandate required developers to include solar panels in the construction of new homes. However, it did include an exception for State Municipalities to apply for the use of “community shared solar” as long as they offer similar benefits to locally installed systems.

The strong support for the application from both builders and lawmakers reflects statewide concerns about the rising price of housing. Proponents of the plan claim the solution will provide clean energy without raising home prices. SMUD’s proposal allows homeowners to be able to tap into solar without needing to be able to afford it. Homeowners can still apply to install rooftop solar panels if their energy use requires it.

SMUD originally intended to draw from an existing solar plant in Fresno to power new developments. However, solar advocates said the plant was too distance, too large, and most importantly it was already constructed. The newly approved plan will require a new solar installation in Sacramento county. SMUD pledges to only use solar plants that are inside their service territory and generate 20 megawatts or less.

Environmentalists are still hitting back at the decision, as they claim it essentially undercuts the mandate. The concern is this will lead to other housing proposals copycatting the tactic, thereby making the law unenforceable.

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