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California Efficiency Laws

The California Energy Commission updates the standards every three years.

2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards

Buildings permitted on or after January 1, 2020, must comply with the 2019 Standards.

The 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards improve upon the 2016 Energy Standards for new construction of, and additions and alterations to, residential and nonresidential buildings. This is commonly referred to as the 2020 building codes.

Standards ensure that builders use the most energy efficient and energy conserving technologies and construction practices, while being cost effective for homeowners over the 30-year lifespan of a building.

  • The standards require solar photovoltaic systems for new homes.
  • Improve the building’s thermal envelope through high performance attics, walls and windows to improve comfort and energy savings.
  • Attic insulation to be a minimum of R-38 to meet high energy efficiency 2020 standards.
  • Windows to be double pane with argon gas and Lowe-E minimum for all housing.
  • Standards update indoor and outdoor lighting making maximum use of LED technology.
  • The standards enable the use of highly efficient air filters to trap hazardous particulates from both outdoor air and cooking and improve kitchen ventilation systems.

CALI Developments HVAC upgrades can include Filtration to meet 2020 codes:

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2022 Building Energy Efficiency Standards

Proposed standards will be adopted in 2021 with an effective date of January 1, 2023

The 2022 Building Energy Efficiency Standards will improve upon the 2019 Energy Standards for new construction of, and additions and alterations to, residential and nonresidential buildings.

Interested parties should be aware the California investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and some publicly owned utilities (POUs) conduct the statewide Codes and Standards Enhancement programs through ratepayer funds. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are private electricity and natural gas providers. California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversees IOUs. Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison comprise approximately three quarters of electricity supply in California. Modernization of the power grid to convert homes to go solar will be adopted by IOUs. Rates for non-solar participants will increase to pay for these transitions to meet California’s lower emission standards.Southern California Edison owns and operates the largest portion of power grids in Southern California and is working to modernize the grid.

Explanation of how NET Metering works:

“Some utility providers will convert your credits to cash back at the end of the year. Check with your local utility provider.”

The cost of a PV system depends on the system size, equipment options (panels and inverters), permitting costs, and labor costs. Prices vary depending on other factors as well, such as whether your home is new, where the system is installed on your premise, the PV manufacturer, and other factors.

The total average cost of an installed residential PV system under the California Solar Initiative is $8.70 per Watt (including installation, as of January 2011). That translates to about $34,800 for a four-kilowatt system, the average size of a residential installation.

ITC Solar investment tax credit

The investment tax credit (ITC), also known as the federal solar tax credit, allows you to deduct 26 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. The ITC applies to both residential and commercial systems, and there is no cap on its value.
  • 2016 – 2019: The tax credit remains at 30 percent of the cost of the system.
  • 2020: Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 26 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes.
  • 2021: Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 22 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes.
  • 2022 onwards: Owners of new commercial solar energy systems can deduct 10 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes. There is no federal credit for residential solar energy systems.

The solar system owner has the ability to take advantage of the solar tax credit. Entities without a federal tax liability sometimes use third-party system owner arrangements to install solar since a third-party can take advantage of the solar investment tax credit, passing along some savings to the solar system host customer.

Emergence of California legislation calling only Hybrid and Electric vehicles to be sold in California.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) first adopted the ZEV requirement in 1990 as part of the Low-Emission Vehicle regulation. Over the last 30 years, the ZEV regulation has been modified to reflect the state of technology. Modifications adopted in 2012 along with the other two Advanced Clean Car Regulations, have set California on a path toward ZEV commercialization with the resurgence of battery technology enabling manufacturers to offer moderately priced zero emission vehicles to consumers. Electric and hybrid car sales are likely to be mandatory after 2030 based on increasing regulation.

Homeowner’s rights to get solar and Home Owners Associations’ restrictions on solar regulations

The Solar Rights Act (CA Civil Code 714), enacted in 1978, bars restrictions by homeowners associations (HOAs) on the installation of solar-energy systems, but originally did not specifically apply to cities, counties, municipalities or other public entities. Subsequent legislation extended these restrictions to all public entities and common interest developments. These entities are allowed to impose reasonable restrictions on a solar energy system that do not significantly increase the cost of the system or significantly decrease its efficiency or specified performance. “Significantly” was not originally defined, but later legislation adopted a specific dollar amount and system efficiency impact that the legislature deemed significant. These figures were amended by AB 2188 in 2014. Currently, entities are allowed to impose reasonable restrictions on a solar energy system that do not add more than $1,000 to the cost, or limit the efficiency of the system by 10%.

Reasonable attorney’s fees incurred during a court case between a property owner and a common interest development or HOA will be awarded to the prevailing party. AB 2180 of 2008 provided even more consumer protections under the Civil Code by providing that any homeowners’ association that is not a public entity that willfully violates the Solar Rights Act must pay the solar system owner a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000. AB 2180 further provides that the approval or denial of any application submitted to authorize the installation of a system must be made in writing within 60 days. If the application is not denied within 60 days it will be deemed approved unless the delay is the result of a reasonable request for additional information.
AB 634 of 2017 extended protection to solar system installations in common areas and limits associations from establishing a general policy prohibiting the installation or use of a rooftop solar energy system for household purposes on the roof of the building in which the owner resides.


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