California Lawmaker Wants Statewide Solar Mandate

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SACRAMENTO (CN) — A California lawmaker wants to take a new San Francisco clean-energy law statewide and require all new commercial and residential building projects to include solar panels.

Recently elected state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, hopes to expand a San Francisco law that requires builders to install solar panels on at least 15 percent of the roofs of new buildings. California would become the first state with such a stringent solar power mandate.

Wiener, who wrote the San Francisco law last year while serving on the city’s Board of Supervisors, said mandating solar power is critical to protect the environment and California’s clean-energy future.

“Fighting climate change and building a sustainable future require us to take immediate action to put in place real clean energy solutions,” Wiener said in a statement.

The proposal, Senate Bill 71, will face strong opposition from California’s powerful construction and builders lobby. Mandatory solar panels would increase construction costs and potentially accelerate already skyrocketing house prices.

California’s average home price is $440,000, more two and a half times the national average, according to a 2015 legislative report. The nonpartisan report attributed ballooning property values to widespread housing shortages in California’s coastal communities and encouraged lawmakers to push for more private housing developments.

France requires new commercial buildings to be equipped with “green roofs” consisting of either solar panels or green plants. Several California cities have approved a mandatory solar requirement, including San Francisco, Santa Monica and Lancaster.

Solar energy has become big business in the Golden State: the industry employs more than 75,000 workers. California produces more solar energy than any other state, an estimated 15,000 megawatts annually, enough to power more than 3.7 million homes.

Wiener and a variety of California Democrats, including Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, continue to take jabs at President-elect Donald Trump before he takes office. State Democrats are preparing for a fight with Trump’s administration over environmental policy and immigration changes, and have hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help them do it.

“Our environment and our future generations need us to act now, especially as a wave of climate-change deniers invade Washington as part of the new presidential administration. Climate change is real, and we must reverse course from the polluting energy practices that got us here, not double down on dirty power,” said Wiener, who serves on the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

Last week another Bay Area Democrat introduced a clean energy bill that would ban energy providers from buying and selling coal-fired energy by 2026.

The California League of Conservation Voters said the timing of the bills is appropriate because “Trump has made it clear he will roll back the national progress we’ve made on clean power.”

“Now is the time for California to lead on expanding usage of solar power,” said Sarah Rose, CEO of the environmental group.