Advocates seek solar on all new houses in ten states

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Two hundred thousand new houses each year across ten states would be built with solar panels, if Environment America succeeds with a new campaign.

The ten states are Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. The group aims to have legislation introduced by mid-2022 in each state, to require solar on new houses.

Three of those states where new housing construction is expected to be strong—Texas, North Carolina, and Colorado—could add significant amounts of solar under a new home solar mandate, said Bronte Payne, director of Environment America’s Go Solar campaign. Two others—Nevada and New Mexico—have set 100% clean electricity goals, and “a solar homes requirement can be part of the suite of solutions to help meet those goals,” Payne said.

California’s mandate for solar on all new housing up to three stories tall is projected to achieve more than 1 GW of new solar in the state within five years. California home purchasers would benefit from a reduction in energy bills that would exceed the increase in mortgage payments, by about $35 per month, the California Energy Commission projected.

Under Environment America’s campaign, the types of housing covered by any state mandate will vary by state, said Payne.

Environment California, a state organization under Environment America, was opposed to the California Energy Commission’s decision to approve the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s proposal to allow new homes to bypass the solar requirement, by sharing in a utility-scale solar farm.  The state group said in a post that the decision “undercuts the entire point of the law.”

Across the ten states, about a quarter-million houses are built each year, based on 2019 U.S. housing starts, and the states’ share of the U.S. population. Of those, 83% would be suitable for solar, says an Environment America report, citing data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Payne said that Environment America and its state organizations “played a pivotal role” in California’s Million Solar Roofs initiative, and were among the groups that successfully advocated for 100% clean electricity standards in Washington, California, New Mexico, and Maine.

“We have the technology to build every new building in our communities with clean, renewable energy,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America’s clean energy program. “So let’s do it.”