State promotes renewable energy at all costs

June 15, 2012

By Joseph Perkins

The California Public Utilities Commission routinely rubber stamps renewable energy projects without discussion. But that was not the case this past Thursday, when Commissioner Michael Florio objected to a solar project that came before the state agency.

It was part of a deal between San Diego Gas & Electric and Sol Orchard, a Carmel company, to buy 50 megawatts of locally produced solar power from 21 individual ground-mounted photovoltaic plants — solar orchids rather than trees — in San Diego County.

The cost of the project, which ultimately will be passed along to the utility’s ratepayers, was 40 percent higher than other such deals the CPUC considered during its meeting. “An expensive and dubious project such as this one simply does not merit our approval,” Florio argued.

Florio’s fellow commissioners ultimately overruled him.

They approved the SDG&E deal with Sol Orchard for 50 overpriced megawatts along with another SDG&E deal to buy 200 megawatts from Mount Signal I Solar Farm in Calexico and a deal by Southern California Edison to buy 250 megawatts of solar power from a McCoy Solar development in Riverside County.

The CPUC’s motivation to approve even the most questionable solar projects is attributable to a state mandate, the so-called Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring SDG&E, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric to generate a third of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal by 2020.

If the RPS mandate wasn’t ambitious enough, Gov. Jerry Brown made it even more so with his Clean Energy Jobs Plan. 

Toward the goal of adding 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity over the next eight years, the plan calls for 8,000 megawatts of utility-scale generation of solar, wind and geothermal, as well as 12,000 megawatts of localized generation close to consumer loads and transmission and distribution lines.

Considering that renewable energy sources account for less than 15 percent of in-state electricity generation, according to the California Energy Commission, it seems highly doubtful the big three utilities will meet the 2020 RPS mandate, much less the governor’s unrealistic goal for local generation of renewable energy.

The problem is that the state’s target for renewable energy generation is far ahead of the market for such energy. In fact, private R&D funding for renewable energy is $1 billion less than it was 10 years ago, according to the state energy commission.

That’s because, for all the promise of renewable energy, the price of electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources remains higher than the price of electricity generated by natural gas and nuclear power, which, between them, continue to generate 70 percent of the Golden State’s electricity.

That’s why lawmakers have mandated an artificial share of the state’s electricity market to renewable energy. That also is why the state government continues to directly and indirectly subsidize renewable energy.

5 comments

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  1. John Dingler, artist
    John Dingler, artist 15 June, 2012, 08:40

    Yes, non-nuclear renewable energy is the rational form of energy going forward.

    Reply this comment
  2. eck
    eck 15 June, 2012, 19:41

    Hey John “Dingbat”. Stick to art, you’re a moron otherwise.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 16 June, 2012, 08:00

    ouchie!

    Reply this comment
  4. John Dingler, artist
    John Dingler, artist 16 June, 2012, 08:38

    To eck,
    Please, no ad hominem attacks; Doing so makes you look like badly, putting the focus on you instead of the issue of energy and wasteful spending on over-bloated nuke projects. Know what I mean?

    Reply this comment
  5. Ron Kilmartin
    Ron Kilmartin 18 June, 2012, 22:42

    Every megawatt of renewable power (excepting some geothermal and hydro, that which can be considered operationally firm – not all is firm)has to be backed up by a megawatt of thermal power.

    It is an illusion to believe that 800 mw of wind or solar is interchangeable with 800 mw of fossil-fired thermal. If you do not have that thermal back up spinning on line 100% of the time, your power supply decays to third world class, i.e, unreliable, depending on wind, clouds, and sun. If you do not have reliable power, few industries can survive under that regime. They have to leave, and take their jobs with them.

    So, if you have to build (or renew) 1 megawatt of thermal power for every megawatt of renewable wind/solar power, you must not only cover the extra capital cost but the operational fuel cost of thermal, plus maintenance and capital recovery costs of both. But the enviropsychos do not really care about costs to the taxpayer or ratepayer. The more costly the better, in their warped vision of the world.

    So no matter what, the renewables require generation of CO2 by thermal plants, or, even more to the enviropsycho’s jollies, industry, jobs, and people must leave the state.

    So once again we are displacing the discussion plane from the real root of the problem: the CO2 hoax promoted by Arnold and CARB and double-downed by Brown. When this hoax is finally recognized by the populace, the renewable baloney will go the way of the Dutch Tulip Mania of the 1600s.

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