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California became the first state in the United States to require solar panels on newly built homes. But the mandate was challenged by a new program.

Under a proposal from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, home builders could choose to take credit for electricity generated by existing solar farms, instead of building houses with rooftop panels.

Homeowners or renters would receive guaranteed energy bill savings of at least $5 per kilowatt of solar power a year, or about $20 annually for a typical household.

Critics said the Sacramento program failed to produce the unique benefits of on-site solar.

On Wednesday, California state officials declined to approve the program — handing, at least, a temporary victory to clean energy advocates, who said the program would cripple California’s first-in-the-nation home solar mandate.

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