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Today, as expected, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved a new policy to require almost all new homes built in the state to incorporate solar beginning in January 2020. SEIA worked with the commission for more than two years to develop the new standards.

But the researchers noted a bright spot - the state's greenhouse gas emissions are declining, despite a growing population.

California's housing department estimates that the state needs to build 180,000 new housing units annually to keep prices stable.

"This is going to be an important step forward for our state to continue to lead the clean energy economy", said Kelly Knutsen, director of technology advancement for the California Solar and Storage Association.

The mandate, which takes effect in 2020, won unanimous approval of the California Energy Commission.

California, which is routinely a leader in environmental regulatory efforts, would be the first state in the country with such a requirement.

According to the plan, residential homeowners could expect to pay $40 (R500) more on their mortgage but should save $80 a month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.

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"We update energy codes every three years and in 2013 we required that all new homes be solar-ready", says spokeswoman April Beck.

Some new houses will be exempt if solar panels are infeasible, such as when a roof is in the shadows of another structure.

The state set a solar power generation record in April and regulators say the state is on track to meet its 2030 renewable energy goal. But how quickly the investment yields returns depends on a whole host of factors, including how big your solar panels are, the price of energy where you live, and how much sun you get. Others might place more value on spending that $10,500 today on a pressing necessity rather than putting it into some sort of state-mandated solar savings account.

'This is not a radical departure - it's a step in the right direction to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and improve our air, which for many, many decades California has been doing better and better each time'.

The mandate, which will change the building code for residential buildings up to three stories high, aims to increase the amount of solar energy used in the state.

Some critics, though, question the wisdom of the transition to solar at a time when California is struggling with a dire housing crisis and skyrocketing housing costs.

Because of such policies, the most populous USA state has frequently been at odds with President Donald Trump's aggressive rollback of policies to combat climate change.