Let’s require solar panels on new buildings in California

In a few weeks, the Trump Administration will take over Washington and bring with it a bevy of climate deniers — people in the pocket of the oil industry who deny science and refuse to address the existential global threat known as climate change. Delaying efforts to stop climate change, or enacting policies that worsen it, will be devastating for our planet and for future generations.

Now, more than ever, California must lead on climate. In that spirit, today I’m introducing legislation to make California the first state in the nation to require solar panels on new buildings. Previously, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I authored similar solar legislation, making San Francisco the first large American city to adopt a solar rooftop requirement. The San Francisco legislation required installation of solar panels on the roofs of all new residential and commercial buildings between one and ten stories. (Taller buildings require significantly more rooftop equipment and thus make solar more challenging.)

(More rooftop solar means more clean, renewable energy. Photo by Gigaom)

California is a world leader in combating climate change and has adopted some of the most aggressive climate goals in the world. Under recently adopted legislation, California must, by 2030, reduce its carbon emissions to 40% below 1990 levels.

To achieve these goals, California must dramatically increase its use of renewable energy, and solar energy is a key part of that equation. We are already the leading producer of solar energy in the country, with over 15,000 megawatts of solar energy installed, enough to power over 3.7 million homes. In addition to the significant environmental benefits provided by solar energy, the solar industry employs over 75,000 people throughout California, including manufacturers, distributors, and installers.

California law is currently quite pro-solar, but we can do more. Existing California law requires that 15% of roof area on all newly built small and mid-sized buildings be “solar ready,” meaning that 15% of the roof space must be unshaded by the proposed building itself, and free of obtrusions. The requirement applies to new residential and commercial buildings of ten stories or less. My legislation will require that these new rooftops be not just “solar ready,” but “solar installed.” The solar installation can take the form of either solar photovoltaic or solar water panels, both of which supply 100% renewable energy.

We must move passed the era of dirty power that threatens our natural world and endangers everyone who lives on this planet. Ignorance and inaction are not an option. Requiring solar on new rooftops will keep California on an aggressive path towards a clean energy future and continue our fight against climate change.