2. A solar battle for our times
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.
- California's initiatives could bolster similar efforts in other states.
- Solar is getting ever cheaper, which expands the menu of policy options.
The sides, albeit oversimplified:
- One side argues that it's a feel-good but not cost-effective policy, and could even crowd out better climate initiatives.
- 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.