New Law Makes Hope for Bright Future
Hawaii becomes first state to make solar power in new homes mandatory,
Blue Planet Foundation News Release
Hawai‘i took a major step towards clean energy leadership this week as the landmark “Solar Roofs” law took effect. The new law requires that almost all new homes be built with solar water heaters. Hawai‘i is the first state in the nation to make solar water heaters compulsory.
“Hawaii’s new law brings the benefit of free sunshine to new homeowners across our islands,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation, a local non-profit focused at making Hawai‘i energy independent. “We are the Saudi Arabia of sun. Every house in the state should be tapping into this free resource.”
Solar water heaters are among the most effective means of reducing the high electricity bills that residents now pay. The Solar Roofs law will reduce the total cost of home ownership in Hawai‘i by cutting the electric utility bill of an average new home by 30 to 40 percent – saving about $750 each year for an average household. The Solar Roofs law is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by upwards of 8,000 tons annually from avoided electricity use.
The law was the result of a bill introduced by Senator Gary Hooser (D – Kaua‘i) with strong support from House Energy Committee Chair Rep. Hermina Morita (D – Hanalei, N. Kaua‘i). The law states that “no building permit shall be issued for a new single-family dwelling that does not include a solar water heater system that meets the standards established pursuant to section 269-44.”
The law is flexible in that it allows some exemptions for those homeowners who can demonstrate that their home receives “poor solar resource” or that a solar water heater is “cost-prohibitive” based on a 15-year life cycle cost-benefit analysis.
Supporters of the law are worried that there are still some loopholes that need to be made smaller for the law to have its desired effect. Legislators will be asked to revisit the law if a high percentage of developers seek variances for new home construction. Bills have already been prepared to tighten the variance requirements to ensure that the intent of the law remains.
Solar water heating is a foundation block in building Hawaii’s clean energy future. A solar water system is the most basic renewable energy device to harness the clean energy from the sun. Solar water heaters provide the greatest energy savings per dollar for reducing substantial residential energy demand.
The Solar Roofs law ensures that the vast majority of new homes will have solar water heaters and smooth the transition to zero-energy homes of the future. Further, with solar water heaters a standard feature on new homes, residents will be more accustomed to the benefits of solar, turning more of them into potential customers for photovoltaic and other renewable energy devices.
“Hawai‘i can be proud to lead the nation with this policy,” added Mikulina. “At a time when the globe hungers for smart energy solutions, Hawai‘i is demonstrating how it can be done.”