Would you pay an extra $9,500 for a new house if it would save you $19,000 over the next 30 years? Breaking that down to a more manageable number, how about paying an extra $40 each month on the money you borrow but also saving an extra $80 each month on your utility expenses?
Now, would you still think this is a good idea if you have no choice?
Keep all that in mind as people start learning more about what the state of California just did so that New Yorkers can start a reasonable discussion about what it really means to support clean, renewable energy.
In a unanimous vote, the California Energy Commission decided to require that all new homes have solar power over the next two years as well as better air filtration and insulation.
If this comes up in New York, which it might considering the competition among Democratic gubernatorial candidates to support clean energy, it also is likely to face hostility from those rejecting yet another mandate from Albany, one that taxpayers and homeowners will have to pay for.
In the absence of a true and broad statewide philosophical commitment, we need something that might actually win over skeptics and critics, a thorough analysis, a cost and benefit comparison to show what such a move would mean.
In addition to the original costs and savings, the impact of such a move or a similar one is even larger in two areas — the way utility companies work and the growth of the alternative energy industry.
As more people invest in more homes which generate more of their own electricity, utilities will be challenged to find ways to support their expensive infrastructure if they cannot make the money they do now. As more homes and more institutions are able to both create energy and, even more important, store it for later use, the role of utilities will change drastically and forever.
The new solar initiative underway at SUNY New Paltz is a prime example. The money it will save will come, in one sense, at the expense of the utility company that now provides all that power.
Even more promising is the prospect of more jobs and more businesses to fulfill the need for all this insulation and all these panels. That will be harder to measure accurately, but there is no doubt that growth will be a direct outcome of such a policy.
Then there are the related effects. In this region that most notably concerns the controversial Competitive Power Ventures power plant in Wawayanda. New York needs the power it will generate — or the equivalent — to help replace the amount that now comes from the Indian Point reactors. If New York was to follow the example being set in California, the need for that plant would eventually disappear, along with the need for other fossil-fuel-burning plants in the future.
So the payoff for this change in California is much more than the monthly savings on utility bills, if only New Yorkers would start to look at the whole picture and demand that their officials pay attention and do something.