california environmental efforts

California has always be known as the home of everything trendy and glamorous. Home to Hollywood — where all the latest trends seem to spring from — California is always in the limelight. But the Golden State is now making headlines for an altogether different reason. California’s groundbreaking environmental efforts are at the forefront of the green energy movement in the United States.

Mandatory Solar Panels

This May, California became the first state to require rooftop solar panels for all new homes and apartment buildings three stories or fewer. But this new legislation doesn’t stop there. It requires better insulation and ventilation in all new buildings, both residential and non-residential. All existing non-residential buildings must also upgrade to energy-efficient lighting. This mandate is due to take affect in 2020.

The California Energy Commission is quoted by Governing magazine as saying that this ground breaking mandate will cut energy use in new California homes by more than 50 percent. Governing also quoted the Energy Commission as stating that this project will “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 115,000 fossil fuel cars off the road.”

Of course, the Golden State has not always been at the forefront of the environmental movement.

California’s Early Environmental Victories

As recently as the 1960’s, California ranked among the top states in the nation for smog pollution. Things finally came to a head and the state of California took a stand against automakers. They fought to get catalytic converters and other cleaner technology included in all cars sold in the Golden State. After California’s success, other states soon followed and the resulting changes swept through the nation and the auto industry.

More recently, in 2006, California adopted A.B. 32 which mandated that the state revert back to the levels of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 by the year 2020. This too garnered the state national attention in the environmental arena as it introduced the largest cap-and-trade system in the country.

The Hollywood Effect

The question everyone seems to be asking is; will this initiative follow the same pattern? Will more states follow in California’s footsteps. To some it may seem like a simple “yes.” However, others aren’t so sure. Governing magazine quotes Jay Orfield — a senior policy analyst in the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council — as saying; “Even for energy-forward places, this may be too much. Most places are wary about how [the mandate] will affect housing. So for now, states will be keeping a close eye on California.”

Too much indeed. Opponents of the mandate argue that home prices will skyrocket, exacerbating existing affordable housing shortages and even putting thousands of people out of work when they can’t find affordable house within commuting distance to their job. The rest of the country seems content to sit back and watch for now and see how this plays out for California. The theory of the situation can be — and have been — argued for years, but now only time will tell. Needless to say, the whole country will be watching. So, no pressure California.

For more information on California’s newest environmental mandates, visit Governing magazine.