STATE HOUSE – Rep. Jennifer Boylan has introduced a bill that would require most new construction in the state to include solar panels as part of the initial construction.
“Every time a new building is built without solar panels, I see it as a missed opportunity. With energy costs going up and the clock ticking on preventing the worst impacts of climate change, we need to get moving,” said Representative Boylan (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence). “We build new houses and schools and then a few years later we think to put solar panels on them. Homeowners, taxpayers and our environment would all benefit from doing things right the first time.”
Homes constructed with solar panels can save homeowners money on their monthly bills, even if the additional labor and equipment costs are factored into their mortgage. But contractors and developers often do not often consider future savings on electric bills when constructing new homes. Additionally, many architects and contractors don’t factor in solar when they design and build. This sometimes leads to decisions, such as placing HVAC equipment or chimneys on south-facing roofs, that prevents future owners from going solar as efficiently.
Representative Boylan’s bill (2023-H 5851) would require most new construction to include solar panels. It would instruct the Rhode Island Building Code Commission to create different regulations for single-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings, large commercial buildings and parking lots over 16,000 sq. ft. Developers could apply for an exemption if they can demonstrate solar would be impractical, if they provide alternative forms of renewable energy generation or if they are constructing affordable housing and don’t have sufficient funding.
California passed a solar requirement for new home construction in 2018, and other states, including neighboring Massachusetts, are considering similar bills. As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, builders are eligible for a 30% tax rebate from the federal government to help pay for solar installation.
Advocates say requiring solar on new construction will help create jobs, add resiliency to the electrical grid and prevent forests from being cut down to make room for solar.
“We need to act fast to reach our clean energy targets,” said Amanda Baker, policy associate with the Green Energy Consumers Alliance. “Building efficiently with solar and electric vehicle readiness will save consumers time and money down the line. This bill will help us meet the Act on Climate targets, benefit consumers and create jobs.”
“Contractors, architects and builders have a lot to consider when building a house. This bill is about making sure renewable energy is a priority and not an afterthought,” said Representative Boylan. “The person buying that house will pay more over their lifetime if you build a house that’s hard to retrofit for solar panels. And energy bills for everyone are going to keep going up if we don’t act. By requiring solar whenever practical, everyone will benefit.”