May 14, 2018

California's solar mandate is sparking a new energy debate

Photo: Killan O'Sullivan/View Pictures via Getty Images

Following up: California's mandate that new single-family homes and small multi-family dwellings must come with solar panels starting in 2020 has touched off a dispute among climate advocates about whether it's a good idea.

Why it matters now: State and local policy is where the action is, as the White House has generally abandoned federal climate policies. Meanwhile, California's initiatives could bolster similar efforts in other states as solar continues to get ever cheaper, which expands the menu of policy options.

The sides, albeit oversimplified:

  1. One side argues that it's a feel-good but not cost-effective policy, and could even crowd out better climate initiatives.
  2. Others say there isn't the luxury of leaving pr0-deployment policies on the cutting room floor, and that costs declines will make it cheaper than expected.

Be smart: Rochester Institute of Technology energy expert Eric Hittinger's excellent Twitter thread offers helpful framing. He writes:

  • "One group, maybe called 'optimizers', wants cost-effective solutions because anything else results in more costs and less results."
  • "Another group, maybe called 'pragmatic gradualists', are more focused on making progress, and are happy to push on anything that seems to move. This group is less focused on cost-effectiveness and more on political feasibility."
  • His bottom line: "Our *goal* should be to achieve the most cost-effective and efficient solutions that we know about, but we should also be *satisfied* if we achieved the best solution that was politically feasible today. Then tomorrow we can start working on a better policy."

One level deeper: The mandate, part of a wider efficiency policy, is expected to raise average new home costs by around $8,000–$12,000, per various reports.

  • The California Energy Commission predicts that the new policy will add $40 to monthly mortgage payments, but save $80 per month on cooling, heating and lighting.
  • NPR has a good piece here.

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: First case in sub-Saharan Africa confirmed

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Nigeria confirmed its first novel coronavirus case in an Italian who flew to Lagos from Milan — the first known case in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization has been working to prepare Africa's health care systems to be ready for the outbreak, which is now also confirmed in Algeria and Egypt.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,700 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

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Ad spending on 2020 primary tops $1 billion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Spending on the 2020 presidential primary has officially surpassed the $1 billion mark, with more than half of that total coming from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

Why it matters: It's the most money that has been spent this early on in an election cycle in U.S. history.

The growing coronavirus recession threat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In just a matter of weeks, top economists and investment bank analysts have gone from expecting the coronavirus outbreak to have minimal impact on the U.S. economy to warning that an outright recession may be on the horizon.

What's happening: The spread of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., and the speed at which they are being discovered has set the table for the outbreak to have a larger and much costlier impact.