On May 9, California became the first state to mandate solar panels for new homes.
The provision, which won’t go into effect until 2020, is part of a bid by the state to cut energy use in new homes by more than 50%. But what are the long-term effects of the move? And will other states follow?
The Benefits Of The Mandate
According to a report by the California Energy Commission, the new building standards will raise the cost of a new home by up to $9,500. However, it will save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over 30 years.
Other than the long-term cost savings to homeowners, the state is hoping to see another benefit from the new building standards: better air quality.
In 2018, the American Lung Association reported that ozone pollution has worsened compared to the previous year. And California is home to 19 of the top 25 most ozone-polluted counties in the U.S.
Not A One-Step Solution
But not everyone is cheering California’s new solar-panel initiative.
One case against the rooftop solar mandate is that there are cheaper ways to reduce carbon emissions. Large solar and wind farm installations, for example, generate energy at one sixth the cost of rooftop installations.
California’s housing crisis is another complicating factor.
The higher upfront cost of a rooftop-solar home will pose an additional challenge to middle- and low-income home buyers. And this is at a time when 30% to 60% of people in every metropolitan area in California already can’t afford local rents.
What is certain is that California’s rooftop solar mandate is not a one-step solution to climate change. States will still need a multi-pronged approach to curbing emissions. But if the California experiment is even modestly successful, other states are likely to follow.