June 1 Update: The California Energy Commission voted 4 to 0 in favor of the new Energy Code.
California's latest update on its energy efficiency code for new homes and commercial buildings is doing a wonderful thing:
It requires them to be "solar-ready!"
That puts into place common sense design standards that ensure a building can accommodate solar, opening the possibility for many more buildings to run on solar and helping California's solar industry. Today, many buildings can't have solar because they have too much shade or face away from the sun.
California's updated energy efficiency standards require builders to: orient the building toward the south, make sure the roof isn't shaded, and keep the roof as clear as possible so that it has room for a maximum number of solar panels - that affects the placement of chimneys, attic vents, fans and skylights.
Besides applying to new buildings, the standards would also be in force for major renovations and additions to existing buildings.
It's expected to be approved by the California Energy Commission when they vote today and would take effect January 1, 2014.
The Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24) also codify a range of simple, but often excluded energy efficiency features, from insulating hot-water pipes to including whole house fans and more efficient windows, and for commercial buildings, advanced lighting controls.
California's Building Energy Efficiency Standards first went into effect in 1978 and are regularly updated. A new home or commercial building built to the 2013 standards will consume about 25% less energy and water than one built to 2008 standards.
And the standards being voted on today will reduce energy demand for homeowners a further 25%, commercial buildings 30%, and low rise multifamily buildings 14%, according to Commission estimates. It will also eliminate the need for six, 500 megawatt modern natural gas power plants, saving the electricity needed to run 1.7 million homes.
In April, Governor Brown issued a sweeping executive order for zero net energy government buildings, new and renovated.
And the state's utility commission voted to make energy efficiency the priority "fuel" for utilities.