When you look at a rooftop, what do you see? Do you see a missed opportunity to capture renewable energy from the sun? I do.
In a world facing so many environmental challenges, our existing infrastructure must be a part of the solution. We need to move towards a future powered by clean and renewable energy, and taking advantage of the sun’s plentiful energy shining on our rooftops will play a key role in that transition.
Luckily for Californians, our state became the first in the country to adopt a policy that all new homes be built with solar panels. The policy, which takes effect in 2020, is part of an overhaul of the state’s building code that aims to cut energy use in new buildings by 50 percent.
A recent report published by Environment California Research & Policy Center found that the policy could increase the state’s existing solar capacity 22 percent by 2045, while also cutting carbon emissions as much as taking 115,000 cars off the road. The California Energy Commission estimates that the new standards, including the energy efficiency measures, will also save California homeowners $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over the course of a typical 30-year mortgage — double what they would add to the cost of a home.
Californians will be the first to tell you that the way we currently produce and consume energy is harmful to us now, and that it threatens our future. We’re no strangers to the lasting damages caused by burning fossil fuels, from havoc wreaked on delicate coastal ecosystems where oil has spilled into the ocean, to polluted air that chokes our major cities, to a rapidly warming climate that heightens our communities’ fire and drought risks.
Still, many are left wondering how our state’s new solar homes policy will impact their lives and communities. As the Mayor of Lancaster, the city with the nation’s very first solar requirement for new homes, I encourage my fellow Californians to look to cities like mine for inspiration.
Lancaster set the stage for making solar the norm back in 2014, when we first started requiring solar panels on new homes. Several other California cities soon followed suit, including San Francisco, Santa Monica, and Sebastopol. Now, Lancaster has gone even further, requiring new homes be zero net energy, or able to meet all of their own energy needs with on-site renewables. In addition to setting the example by having solar panels installed on city facilities and local schools, we also took advantage of programs to make solar installations more affordable for our residents and empower our citizens with the option of choosing cleaner, renewable power resources at competitive rates.
These forward-thinking policies and programs have allowed us to be true leaders in the transition to clean energy. With more than 500 Megawatts of local solar capacity and renewable energy supplied through our CCA, we are on track to achieve our goal of becoming a Net Zero Energy community. The upsurge in local jobs and millions of dollars in energy saved have been tremendous benefits every step of the way.
Utilizing more solar energy will help the state of California better protect our environment, further mitigating the effects of climate change. Putting solar panels on all new homes across the state will be a powerful step forward. What’s more, based on my community’s experience, creating more opportunities for solar installations increases the affordability of solar technologies, saving homeowners even more money in the long run.
From my community to yours – this is something to look forward to.
Rex Parris is mayor of Lancaster, Calif. Emma Searson is Environment California’s “Go Solar” campaign advocate