CALIFORNIA'S REGULATORY IMPULSE, CONT'D
Whether or not there's actually a bubble in places like L.A. and San Francisco, housing is unbelievably expensive in most of California. High housing prices drive people and businesses out of state and make life significantly worse for many who stay. So the California legislature is working to make new houses even more expensive, by requiring a feature almost nobody who lives outside the boonies is willing to pay for: photovoltaic solar systems. Here's the A.P. report:
SACRAMENTO - A bill that would make homebuilders install solar energy systems on 15 percent of new homes built in California starting in 2006 narrowly passed a key committee in the Assembly on Wednesday.
With a 5-4 party-line vote that saw Democrats in support and Republicans in opposition, the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee approved the bill that could quickly put California on par with Japan and Germany, home to thousands of new solar home systems. The bill requires that 55 percent of homes have the units by 2010.
But if it passes the full Assembly, the bill could put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a jam between two interest groups -- environmentalists and the state's large building industry -- that have claimed his allegiance. During last year's recall election, Schwarzenegger campaigned for incentives that would install solar systems on half of new homes starting in 2005.
Spokeswoman Ashley Snee said Wednesday that Schwarzenegger has no position on the bill but that he remains committed to "opportunities for solar technologies."
Opponents of the bill said the solar systems will add $20,000 to home costs and price thousands more Californians out of the housing market, which is among the nation's most expensive.
Solar systems are undoubtedly cool, but so are skylights and heated bathroom floors. That's no reason to make them mandatory. The solar-industry lobby makes arguments that would be recognized as greedy and self-serving coming from any other industry:
"Creating a minimum standard for builders is the most cost-effective way of increasing the number of solar powered homes," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California. "This bill would not only reduce thousands of pounds of air pollution each year, it would also save Californian's money by preventing the need to build more natural gas power plants."
According to the California Building Industry Association, approximately 135,000 single-family homes will be built in 2006. Should California require a minimum of 15 percent of these homes be built with 2 kW solar PV systems, as called for in this bill, California's solar market would increase by approximately 40 MW, equivalent to the size of a peaking power plant.
In other words: GIVE US MORE BUSINESS.