German state of Baden-Württemberg follows basic logic and requires that all new non-residential buildings have solar panels on them.
If, say, a monster was threatening the future of humanity and the only way to defeat it was to stop feeding it pollution, there’s a good chance governments would take strong steps to cut pollution urgently. Unfortunately, despite everything above being the same except that the word “monster” should be replaced with “climate catastrophe,” most governments have been excruciatingly slow to implement strong anti-GHG pollution policies.
The truly amazing thing is that it’s not even hard to make the shift away from pollution. Solar power and wind power are cheaper than new fossil fueled power plants in most places, and could replace existing fossil fueled power plants at negligible cost. Meanwhile, building these renewable energy power plants creates numerous jobs, which boosts the economy. So, in net, it is simply sensible to develop renewable energy power plants at a rapid pace.
Rooftop solar power is different from large, utility-scale solar. The latter is much cheaper, but the former competes with retail electricity, not wholesale electricity. Indeed, rooftop solar PV over the lifetime of a system is also typically competitive — or more than competitive — with retail electricity prices. However, various forms of institutional inertia when it comes to constructing buildings, as well as initial developers not being on the hook for operational costs, mean that many buildings get constructed with no thought for rooftop solar. The German state of Baden-Württemberg is changing that in its jurisdiction. It is requiring that all new non-residential buildings have solar panels on them starting in 2022 — a little more than one year from now.
“This will modernise construction procedures in general and make climate action a matter of course,” says Franz Untersteller, energy minister of Baden-Württemberg.
This follows the city-state of Hamburg passing a similar law that goes into effect a year later, in 2023.
“Under Germany’s current plans, renewable sources will supply 65 percent of electricity by 2030, with installed photovoltaic capacity providing 66 gigawatts. Total photovoltaic capacity currently stands at about 51 gigawatts. As solar panels and other renewable energy installations increasingly dominate the German power mix, questions about their spatial needs are becoming louder. However, especially with regard to solar PV, analyses have found that many of Germany’s biggest cities are squandering vast renewable energy generation potential by leaving their rooftops empty.” Not only German cities. Many cities across the world could benefit both environmentally and economically from the same policy.
Such a policy comes as no real disruption even. As a new building is built, everyone must take into account that it has solar panels on top, just as we have to take into account that a new building will have a roof and walls, just as we expect that a new building will be hooked up to the electric grid.
This is not the first rooftop solar mandate in the world. We have archives on the topic. In fact, California is requiring that all new homes have solar panels on the roof. This residential rooftop solar mandate came years after certain Californian cities rolled out such policies. “Lancaster passed a solar mandate on new homes in 2013, Sebastopol passed a solar mandate on new homes and new commercial buildings just a little bit later, and then came Santa Monica, Culver City, and San Francisco in the following few years. (In 2017, South Miami became the first US city outside of California to implement a solar mandate on new homes.)”
Alongside rising governmental requirements and consumer demand for electric vehicles, solar mandates can help more and more of the population make the switch to driving on sunshine. In Germany, the share of new auto sales that are plug-in vehicle sales rose to a record 11.4% in July, bringing the year-to-date share to 8.5%. This follows the introduction of a strong consumer incentive package for electric vehicles, as well as the European Union basically telling automakers that they need to start selling electric vehicles or pay billions of dollars in fines.
Germany’s approach to energy transition isn’t perfect, but it keeps making strong moves and is doing quite well relative to other top global economies.