A solar panel on every house might sound good, but it isn’t smart climate policy.
by James Temple | May 9, 2018
California will now require solar panels on most new homes, extending the state’s role in pushing some of the strictest environmental regulations in the United States.
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The big problem with the California Energy Commission’s new mandate—which passed on May 9 and goes into effect in 2020—is cost.
Compared with solar power plants, rooftop solar is “a much more expensive way of increasing renewables on the grid,” says Severin Borenstein, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared his concerns in a letter to one commissioner.
In fact, residential solar systems cost between 12.9 and 16.7 cents per kilowatt-hour averaged over their lifetime, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report last year. That’s more than double the cost of utility-scale solar systems, which range from 4.4 to 6.6 cents.
As it is, it’s going to be incredibly expensive and difficult to overhaul the energy system, so researchers stress that it’s crucial to follow the most cost-effective paths possible (see: “At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system”).
“I think there are indeed limited political resources that can be mustered against climate change,” Borenstein said in a follow-up e-mail. “By demonstrating a very expensive way to reduce greenhouse gases, I think this could very likely be used in other states and countries as an argument against moving toward renewable energy.”
The new rule could add more than $10,000 to the costs of building a home, raising the price tag in what’s already one of the most expensive states to purchase housing. But buyers are expected to pay lower monthly energy bills as a result of this change and eventually save money over time.
Borenstein notes that these savings are effectively subsidized by other ratepayers without solar panels, net metering, and solar tax credits.
California has already made giant strides in adding renewable-energy generation, which has started to create its own set of problems. On very sunny days, the state’s solar plants can generate more energy than the system is able to use, pushing prices into negative territory (see “Texas and California have too much renewable energy”).
Effectively integrating a growing supply of intermittent solar and wind energy will require adding far more storage, transmission, and smart grid systems. As it stands, the state’s grid operator lacks basic tools for monitoring, communicating, and reacting to a continually shifting supply of rooftop solar.
California estimates that the new rule will cut emissions by 1.4 million metric tons over three years, which is a small fraction of the 440 million tons the state generated in 2015. As others have pointed out, policies requiring higher residential density would do far more to cut emissions, largely by discouraging people from driving cars.
But such proposals are far more controversial than solar panels. Last month, California legislators killed a bill that would have overridden local rules to allow five-story housing development along transit centers.
“While additional distributed renewable electricity will be helpful, California’s climate elephant in the room remains the greenhouse gases from people driving cars,” said Costa Samaras, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, in an e-mail. “Increasing the density of housing near employment centers and encouraging housing near transit, as well as the continued electrification of transportation, are essential to deep decarbonization in California.”
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Getting Ready to Buy Your First Home? Here's What To Do First? There are so many parts to buying a home, and when you're a first time home buyer, it can get overwhelming pretty fast. The good news is that you're not alone! When you apply for your first mortgage with us, you'll have a team of professionals helping you every step of the way.
How to get ready to buy your first home.
Here's a checklist of 6 things to do first.
1. Review Your Credit
In your eagerness to buy a home, you may think that the first step is to start looking at properties. However, we recommend that you look at your credit first. A low credit score affects your ability to qualify as well as partially determined the interest rate. So if you find any blemishes or mistakes on your credit report, you’ll want to correct those first.
You can get your free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus, or you can have us pull it for you when you apply with us. We’ll review it with you and may make suggestions of ways that you can raise your score for an even better mortgage rate.
2. Create a Monthly Home Budget.
Determine how much of a mortgage payment you can afford. It doesn’t have to be an exact number, but it can help you to see the big picture and gets you ready to budget for the responsibility of homeownership.
A mortgage payment is often more than rent. However, this is because there are taxes and insurance included in the monthly payment.
Don’t let a higher payment scare you! Remember that your mortgage payment is an investment in your property. Fannie Mae recommends spending a max of 28 percent of your income on your mortgage payment.
3. Gather Your Docs.
Here’s the info you’ll want to have ready when you apply for your first home loan:
4. Get Pre-approved for a Mortgage
Pre-approval puts you in the best position when you’re house hunting. A pre-approval letter means that you have a lender that is ready to support your offer on a home --and, in many cases, it’s as good as cash!
Starting the process is easy and can be done entirely online!
Simply click on the “Apply Now” icon, and you’ll be taken to our secure online form. Upload your docs that you gathered from the previous step, and we’ll take care of the rest!
5. Start Home Shopping.
This is the fun part --looking for your dream home! We have resources to help you with your search, or you can search independently with the help of your chosen realtor.
Whatever route you choose, know that our office is here to help if you have any questions about purchasing your first home.
6. Remember the Additional Costs.
When creating your budget, you’ll also want to consider additional costs, like your down-payment, closing costs, as well as extra savings, should your home need repairs or appliances.
There are a few ways to try to lower these costs, such as asking the seller to pay for some or all of your closing, negotiating repairs, and asking the seller to include appliances with the sale of the house.
Another significant way to save money is with an FHA loan. Not only are the mortgage rates lower than most other home loans, but you can also get a house with as little as 3% down!
Buying your first home is easier than ever and current rates for first time homebuyers make it the best time to buy! Contact us today and let us help you get you closer to finding your "forever home."
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