A report from the Weather Channel just informed that the State of Hawaii is the first one to mandate the use of solar water heaters in new homes. The legislation passed in 2008 set January 1st, 2010 as the start date for this law. Building permits for single-family homes require solar water heating systems starting today.
Environmental groups are supporting it but the Building Industry Association of Hawaii and several developers are against it as well as independent citizens who have some of the following comments, concerns or claims:
- Preference for a figure that allows freedom of choice rather than a restrictive system using a state law as a mandate to have solar thermal technology installed in every new home.
- Unfairness in terms of the costs paid by existing homeowners in comparison with new ones when taking into account rebates, mark ups and interests.
- Concerns about advertised tax credits that can only be applied as tax deductions by tax payers.
- Preference to continue using rebates and other financial incentives for old homes specially if the amount of new homes is not significant.
Several builders had been already incorporating solar roofs in Hawaii for years. Particularly because this feature is appealing to new home buyers who view it as a green value-added feature and because homebuilders have been using incentives as rebates and tax credits. One of the problems with the new law is that these incentives disappear and with it, the costs of the system will be added up to the cost of the home.
The law includes several exemptions based on cost-benefit analysis, solar availability, etc. These exceptions should be sufficient to respond to the very valid concerns, claims and comments indicated above. Nevertheless, this is the first time a State enacts a law to mandate solar roofs in new homes and at the same time eliminates rebates and other incentives.