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California’s Commercial Solar Mandate

By James Kennedy, Founder and President Beach Cities Solar Consulting LLC

California’s Commercial Solar Mandate

California’s commercial solar mandate requires ALL  commercial buildings to be equipped with solar panels and battery storage beginning Jan. 1, 2023. 

California’s Energy Commission panel has voted to require the inclusion of solar and battery energy storage on many new commercial buildings, as well as high-rise residential constructions.  

The commercial buildings covered by the plan include offices, hotels, medical buildings, clinics, restaurants, schools, theaters, grocery stores, retail, auditoriums and convention centers. 

This legislation builds on existing California legislation that requires new single-family homes and multifamily dwellings up to three stories high to include solar power. 

The commission said construction costs from this project are expected to be minimal, as it is more cost effective to build solar and storage at construction, rather than retrofitting. 

Homes and buildings make up 70 percent of California’s electricity use and about a fourth of its greenhouse gas emissions, said the commission. Over 30 years, the commission said it estimates the emissions abated would equal taking 2.2 million cars off the road.  

California Commercial Solar Mandate
BCSC worked with the General Contractor and Roofer on this new construction commercial office and warehouse in Torrance, CA for client BHR, Inc. in 2019

California’s commercial solar mandate will accelerate the installation of solar and energy storage across the state. The mandate, which will add 280 MW of solar annually according to the Energy Commission’s estimates, combined with continued installations on existing structures would bring the total amount of commercial solar installed annually to over 600 MW – equivalent to the power produced by a typical natural gas power plant. The mandate also will add 400 MWh of batteries to commercial buildings, spurring the growth of the nascent energy storage market that is crucial for providing clean power in the evening and overnight. Combined, and assuming no radical changes to net metering, the California Energy Commission’s decision could increase California’s solar market by 22% and today’s behind-the-meter energy storage market many folds. 

“As a result of this vote, virtually all new buildings in California will have solar, and many others could have battery storage upon opening or occupation. These newly constructed buildings include office, retail and medical buildings, schools, apartment complexes, and more. Buildings with solar and storage will provide Californians with cleaner and greener living and working spaces. The rules will significantly contribute to improved grid reliability and local resilience, which is a key part of our clean energy transformation,” said Evelyn Butler, VP of technical services at SEIA, in a statement. 

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