Massachusetts Looking To Pass Bills That Mandates Solar For New Homes

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A pair of bills moving through the Massachusetts Legislature would require solar panels on most new construction in the state.

While some in the building and real estate industry argue the measures could make housing less affordable in a market that is already notoriously expensive, supporters say the move is necessary if the state is to meet its ambitious carbon-cutting goals.

“Our building sector is going to be one of the toughest sectors to fully decarbonize,” said Deborah Donovan, Massachusetts director for environmental nonprofit the Acadia Center. “We don’t want to miss any opportunities on buildings we’re going to be living with for the next 50 or 80 years.”

Massachusetts is about one-fourth of the way to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Most of this progress has come from reducing carbon in the electricity sector. Now, buildings are a major target for efforts to further lower the numbers.

One of the bills (SB 1957) working its way through the Legislature calls for rooftop solar panels on new residential and commercial construction. The second bill (SB 1995) would require panels be put on new or renovated state-owned buildings. Both measures include exceptions for buildings where shading or positioning issues prevent solar from being a viable option. Projects would also be able to meet the requirements of the rules by showing they would generate an equivalent amount of power using a different renewable energy system.

Both bills have been reported on favorably by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. They are now under consideration by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The proposals were inspired by a similar law that passed in California last year.

“This is the kind of policy we need to have in place,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for nonprofit advocacy group Environment Massachusetts. “We need to get to a point where just about every rooftop that can have solar on it in Massachusetts does.”

A report published by Environment Massachusetts last year found that a requirement for solar on new homes would create 2,356 megawatts of solar capacity in the state by 2045, an amount roughly equal to the total capacity in the state right now.

An additional advantage to installing solar on new construction is cost efficiency, Hellerstein said. The cheapest time to install solar is during the original building process, he said, so it will cost less to put in panels on a new home than it would to retrofit an existing roof.

A solar requirement could also provide an economic boost, said Mark Sylvia, president of the Solar Energy Business Association of New England, an industry advocacy group. The state’s solar industry currently employs about 10,000 people, down from more than 15,000 in 2015, according to numbers from the Solar Foundation.

source: Energy News