MANDATED SOLAR PANELS:
A MATTER OF OPINION
ARE WE PUTTING THE BURDEN ON NEW HOME OWNERS?
By Emerson J. Clauss III
Solar Power sounds so good to most Americans;
heck, sounds good to most anyone around the world.
What could be better than harnessing free power?
Sounds great. Except it isn’t exactly free.
A few years back, I lived a year in Africa. Even in
the most remote of villages, with no infrastructure
for electricity, is a shack with solar panels on the roof
to be able to charge cell phones. (yes, cell phones in
villages where there was no power or water. – But
that is a story for another time).
A a new piece of legislation being circulated
around the Statehouse, Senate Bill 1957 (SB1957),
that would make Solar Power mandatory on all
new residential and commercial buildings. Another
bill, SB1995 would make it mandatory on all new or
renovated State-Owned buildings. These bills may
be well intentioned, but if passed, will create some
real issues and hardship in the housing industry, for
First, with Massachusetts now having the fourth
highest cost of living and housing, behind Hawaii, New
York and California, there is little or no consideration to
the additional cost to this new housing requirement.
This at a time when Massachusetts is far behind
supplying enough housing, especially affordable
housing for our growing population.
These Bills, in their current form, have no provisions
for funding; whether by loans, grants or any additional
means, for anyone required to comply with this
proposed addition to our Building Code. Certainly,
this makes for just one more unfunded mandate
placed directly on the backs of New Home Buyers.
And yes, there are large penalties for non-compliance.
Secondly, with some of the oldest housing stock
in the country, many 200-300-year-old homes still
standing and being lived in, we have greater issues
bringing them into any kind of energy compliance
for a standard today, or by 2050. These old homes
are not included in any manner in this proposed
legislation. With no provisions for energy, insulation
upgrades or mandatory Solar and there seems to
be very little discussion about that, even from the
A most altruistic idea of “Net Zero” by 2050 (an
industry moniker for energy neutral), this state has
some of the biggest obstacles due to the age of the
housing and building stock. We have many, if not a
majority, of homes with little or no insulation, built
long before the awareness of energy efficiency and
the greater issues of Global Warming were even an
idea to anyone.
And let’s talk about why us Builders stand up to the
continuing heaping on of constant new regulations,
Codes and constant changes to our industry, by folks
not directly affected by these actions. Yes, I know
that sounds harsh, but hear me out. Like any new
customers… our New Home Buyers are not yet here.
Those New Home Buyers (constituents) are not here
to fend off rising costs in new regulations that may
in fact, push them out of the opportunity of Home
Ownership. Whether new to Massachusetts or our
own kids returning from college to start their new
households, we force many first-time homebuyers
to buy older homes, many times in sub-standard
conditions, because that is what they could afford.
And why not the inclusion in these Bills of
mandatory retro-fitting of all of the other structures
in the state? This is when I get onto my soapbox,
as this is a purely a political issue. Think about it for
a moment. Mandatory regulations for new homes
are okay, where the Owners are not yet here or are
represented constituents, versus making every
current homeowner and building owner comply with
new energy regulation and retro-fit costs on every
building in the state? Purely politics, plain and simple.