A recent study found that 70% of Americans support a national mandate for rooftop solar similar to the one being initiated in California next year, Fast Company reports.
“We’ve seen all the surveys about general support for solar,” says David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, a residential solar installation company that commissioned the survey. He nods specifically to a 2016 Pew Research study that found 89% of Americans supported expanding rooftop solar. But the fact that support for a national mandate around rooftop solar is nearly as high shows that public sentiment is translating into policy. “In a lot of cases, people might say that California’s policy is the big hand of government overreaching,” Bywater says. “But it’s actually what the people want.”
California’s rooftop solar mandate is intended to lighten the environmental footprint of new homes (it also comes with a whole suite of building efficiency mandates, like thicker insulation and better sealing around windows and doors). Some experts in the clean energy space, though, have criticized the mandate, saying that focusing on larger solar and wind installations is a more cost-effective approach to increasing the supply of renewable energy. Individual rooftop installations, because they’re smaller, are on the whole more expensive to install.
Proponents say that mandating rooftop solar will cause the cost of installations to drop even further and also potentially encourage more innovation in distributed solar and home energy storage. In preparation for an influx of solar from rooftop installations, grid utilities might also be forced to make much-needed upgrades to energy distribution infrastructure.