Officials Vote for Mandatory Solar Panels on New Buildings in San Francisco

Josh Mur
April 22, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) San Francisco, CA — This week, a new law mandating the installation of solar panels on new buildings was passed with a unanimous vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The new bill, which goes into effect in January 2017, requires that all new buildings ─ commercial or residential ─ be fixed with solar panels if the building stands at 10 stories or less. Builders are required to ensure that at least 15% of the roof on new structures be “solar ready,” meaning they cannot be shaded or obstructed from sunlight. In a statement, Supervisor Scott Wiener said:

By increasing our use of solar power, San Francisco is once again leading the nation in the fight against climate change and the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels. Activating underutilized roof space is a smart and efficient way to promote the use of solar energy and improve our environment. We need to continue to pursue aggressive renewable energy policies to ensure a sustainable future for our city and our region.

On paper, this bill seems to be an excellent idea. Climate change is a major issue that will persist for years to come, and San Francisco’s location on the Pacific coast a makes it vulnerable to rising sea levels. Addressing climate change is absolutely necessary, but could there be consequences to this new requirement?

A one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco averages over $3,000 per month while a two-bedroom averages over $4,000 per month (not a typo) for rent alone. Additionally, the installation not only raises the buildings’ property values — it offers amenities to the residents in the form of cheaper electricity. This leaves legroom for property owners to impose significant increases in rent.

To paraphrase: greener buildings mean higher rent in a city that is already a real life housing nightmare. Speculation of these consequences, however, should not deter people from supporting the installation of solar panels — regardless of whether it’s mandated by government or not. Potentially higher rents aside, climate change is an issue that affects anybody and everybody. That being said, perhaps the real estate market is due for some long-overdue adjustments.

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