Solar panels on the rooftop of a home in Southern California. Courtesy LA Solar Group

California took a major step toward clean energy on Wednesday with a requirement that most new homes have solar panels.

The new mandate, which was unanimously approved by the California Energy Commission at a meeting in Sacramento, takes effect in 2020.

The solar rules apply to all new construction and major renovation on buildings under three stories. If a structure isn’t suitable for a rooftop array, the home energy use must be offset in some other way.

The requirement is expected to add $8,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a home, but save homeowners an average of $80 a month in energy costs.

San Diego Gas & Electric said it supports the growth of solar energy, but warned that customers without panels should not face higher electricity costs.

“While we support rooftop solar, we also strongly support a system that balances the needs and interests of all customers,” the company said in a statement. “All Californians want cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, we need to ensure that the costs of these types of policies are shared equitably between all our customers.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.