A California regulatory board has passed a regulation that will require all new homes built in the state to be powered by solar panels.
The new rules, which will take full effect in two years, will add thousands of dollars to the construction and maintenance of new homes, but leaders in Sacramento say that the effort will be worth the costs. The new rules will also help the state come in line with its goal of having 50 percent of its electric power supplied by solar by 2030, according to The New York Times.
California becomes the first state to force homebuilders to include solar power in new construction.
The five-member California Energy Commission passed the new requirements with very little debate. Critics lambasted the board’s foregone conclusion of the efficacy of the idea.
“The state’s housing crisis is real,” Republican State Assemblyman Brian Dahle said in response to the rules. “California’s affordability problem is making it more and more difficult for people to afford to live here.”
The Times estimates that the requirements could add as much as $12,000 to the price of new homes. This hike in housing costs comes on the heels of worries that California suffers from a lack of affordable housing for middle- and lower-income residents.
A recent report by the Los Angeles Times noted that upwards of 30 percent of people in the state’s metro areas cannot afford housing in their area and, in some places, that number reaches as high as 60 percent.
On the other hand, while advocates for the plan admit that the costs will drive more people out of the housing market, they insist the addition of solar power will end up saving homeowners in electric costs. Some analysts claimed that while mortgage costs on a thirty-year loan could go up as much as $40 a month due to the solar requirements, owners may also save up to $80 a month on electric costs.
Some have noted that the ability of richer residents to indulge their need to go solar actually drives up costs for those who don’t have the money to install the systems. As wealthier residents go solar, poorer residents find their bills rising and their lives harder as they foot the growing costs incurred by electric companies trying to maintain the power grid even as they lose customers to solar.
A recent report by the Manhattan Institute decries this “energy poverty,” saying, “The highest rates of energy poverty are occurring in the most economically depressed parts of the state.”
“Energy poverty” is determined by the growing percentage of a household’s income spent on electric, heating, cooling, and transportation.
Advocates for the poor fear that the new rules passed by fiat by the California Energy Commission will only cause energy poverty to grow.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.