Hawaii has become the first state in the nation to pass into law a requirement that all new homes built after January 1, 2010, be equipped with solar or other energy efficient hot water systems. Signed into law by Hawaii’s governor on June 26, the bill’s introducer, Senate Majority Leader Gary L. Hooser (D-Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) said, “Hawaii is almost totally dependent on imported oil for its energy needs and estimates show that, with this law, our oil consumption will be cut by 30,000 barrels during the first year and continues to decline exponentially thereafter.” While allowing for other energy efficient choices, the new law is widely seen as a solar hot water mandate and is expected to cut home energy usage in Hawaii by an average of 30% starting in 2010. With the price of oil recently reaching $140 per barrel, Hooser considers Hawaii’s move towards cheaper, cleaner energy “a vital decision for our island state.” Hooser also noted, “While the instituting of broad mandates is never an easy thing to do, the public benefits resulting from the passage of this measure are huge.” Hawaii currently has the highest electricity costs in the nation and it is estimated that homeowners will save $600 annually for a family of four. “The additional disposable income combined with a cumulative multiplier effect of that income circulating in the Hawaii economy, rather than being exported to import foreign oil, will result in significant additional economic activity”, Hooser added. Economics aside, the groundbreaking measure enables Hawaii to lead the nation in the country’s growing effort to combat global warming. Hawaii’s switch to solar will prevent the emission of over 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere every year. Heating water via a solar system is significantly more efficient that using a conventional electric resistant water heater. Utilizing a typical family of four, conventional heaters consume electricity at a rate of 240 to 400 kWh/month. Solar water heaters consume at a rate of only 20 to 80 kWh/month. The countries of Israel and Spain presently also require solar heating in all newly built residences — and Hawaii becomes the first state in the nation to institute such requirements. Senator Hooser said his next move was to “spread the gospel of solar” and that he would be meeting with legislative and community leaders in other “sunshine states” such as California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Florida, encouraging them also to follow Hawaii’s lead. According to Hooser, “Mandating solar hot water heating for all new homes is a no-brainer. This is the low hanging fruit, a low cost proven technology that saves homeowners money and is great for the environment”. Hawaii’s new law also establishes a process to insure quality control, provides for exceptions and other energy efficient alternatives and shifts existing state solar installation tax credits to homes built prior to 2010.With Hawaii’s sun and high electricity/oil expenses, I’m not surprised that it was the first state to mandate such a ‘green’ measure. Let’s hope other green states (I’m looking at you California and Vermont) follow suit.