The fight to wean the world off its dependency on fossil fuels is a long and arduous process, one that pits a woefully underfunded and understaffed faction against one of the most profitable business ventures in human history. It is also of little help that the current political climate in the United States seems to be in favor of a carbon-based fuel dependency. In this case, individual state governments have become the main safeguard to try to help combat these issues, and there are several that have stepped up to the plate to try to buck the current energy trend.
California is one of the largest states in the Union and has possibly the most widespread and influential progressive voting block in the country. In many aspects they have fought to help guide the country on many issues. One of their most recent actions mandates the installation of solar panels on almost all new residential buildings after the year 2020. While to many this sounds like a great idea on the surface, there is a vocal grouping of people that oppose this. While opposition to green technology may initially sound regressive, they hold valid points as to why they feel this is not the correct measure to take.
The first and foremost of these contends with the fact that California is in the midst of a very real housing crisis. The median price of a house in the Golden State is almost double that of the national average, and the additional costs of mandatory solar panels increase that by another $10,000 (minimum) right off the bat. And while saving on electric bills is a prime argument for, blanket requirements like this can be unhelpful to those building in a shady area where they may not gain the needed amount to even break even on the investment. There is also the imbalance of solar production peaking when energy use at home plummets (during the day) and production plummeting when energy use peaks (evening/night time.) This disparity is so great that California pays Arizona to take some of this excess energy. With all these undeniable negatives, it begs the question: why do they need more solar panels?
For any government to add a mandated cost of several thousand dollars that will apply to a large portion of their electorate is a large risk, so you would hope they have several strong justifications. The first and primary argument from the Governor’s office is a staple of the solar and clean energy industry. The added costs initially may seem prohibitive, but over the years you will save thousands more than you invest, making the cost worthwhile. Another is one that may seem ill advised but makes sense from a theoretical standpoint. Here, they agree that the new law is imperfect in many ways; however, they state that in the absence of a perfect system, a flawed one will suffice until better regulations are enacted in the future. They also call up a common principle of capitalism, the idea of supply and demand. In this, they argue that while costs are high, they are much lower than they were just a few years ago, and by making panels widespread and mandatory, this will increase demand, which in turn will cause the price to go down in the future. Finally, by having each residence with their own energy supply, they hope to help transition from a reliance on the energy companies, which was a major issue for California in the 90’s.
The debate over the issue of whether governments should regulate mandatory use of solar panels and clean energy tech is far from as simple as it is posed in this article and will continue for many years after this. However, this is only the first step. If two, three, ten, or more states begin to enact these reforms, they start to become the norm. Every great change in human society begins with small and flawed steps. But the key here is start. This is only the beginning, and it is what is needed to help spur more change in the behemoth that is the fossil fuel energy dependent system. One day we will break from the mold and run entirely on renewable energy in ways that have no negative effects on our planet…or ourselves. While this day is soon approaching, it is not here yet. But this is one of many steps that will help take us there.
So, what do you think? Do the negatives outweigh the positives? Is the self-admitted imperfect system still too imperfect to attempt at this stage? Or is it a step in the right direction that will help the wave of green tech wash over the country?
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