Solar power fries ratepayers

Solar Panels - Wikipedia

Dec. 29, 2012

By Joseph Perkins

Most lawmakers in Sacramento have no idea who Robert K. Merton was. But they almost certainly are familiar with terms the late great American social scientist introduced into the popular lexicon, including “unintended consequences.”

An apt example of that concept is the 2011 state law requiring that a third of all retail electricity sales come from renewable sources by 2020, ostensibly to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warning.

A report this month by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, says that the seemingly well-intentioned mandate could slap the state’s consumers with billions of dollars in unnecessary costs.

Indeed, the state’s major utilities already are warning that customers that have not gone solar will see their rates go up to subsidize customers that have installed solar panels on their rooftops.

It will amount to a $1.3 billion a year transfer from customers of Pacific Gas & Electricity, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — whose electricity is generated by natural gas, nuclear energy, large hydro and other non-renewable sources — to the less than 1 percent of utility customers who rely on solar power.


That’s the unintended consequence of a state diktat that PG&E, SoCal Ed and SDG&E purchase atoms from home solar generators at the same price they resell them to non-solar customers. That makes it impossible to cover their fixed costs.

Akbar Jazayeri, vice president of regulatory operations for SoCal Ed, explained the dilemma facing California utilities to Bloomberg News. “You get into a situation,” he said, “where you have a transmission and distribution system with nobody paying for it.”

And the situation of which Jazayeri spoke will get progressively worse as the state government proffers financial incentives to those that install solar panels on their roofs.

“Join the thousands of home and business owners who have earned cash back by installing solar energy systems,” advertises the California Solar Initiative, a program overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission.

And the cost of the CSI program, a de facto tax on electricity ratepayers that haven’t gotten with the program, pales in comparison with costs borne by ratepayers and taxpayers alike to fund new solar plants throughout the Golden State.

Indeed, the Los Angeles Times this past fall lamented that “a new breed of prospectors — banks, insurers, utility companies — are receiving billions in subsidies while taxpayer(s) and ratepayers are paying most of the costs.”

Among the solar prospectors in the Mohave Desert, the Times reported, are Berkshire Hathaway, headed by gazillionaire investor Warren Buffett, General Electric, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Google.

And the electricity produced by the solar plants the corporations are building at the expense of California taxpayers and utility ratepayers won’t be cheap, costing two to four times as much as conventional electricity.

Stanford University economist Frank Wolak, an expert on California’s electricity market, told the Times that consumer electricity bills could rise as much as 50 percent by the time Buffet and his fellow solar prospectors are generating megawatts.

“It’s easily in the billions of dollars,” he said.

Of course, lawmakers in the state capital will claim that no one had any idea that ramping up solar power in California would be so darn expensive.

But Bob Merton did.


Write a comment
  1. Donkey
    Donkey 29 December, 2012, 08:06

    Good article Joseph! This is what happens when the power to control meets the ideas of organizations that seek control.

    The green , eco, tree-huggers, or save-this-or that people are only after a piece of the control industry that the RAGWUS has perfected! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  2. Hondo
    Hondo 29 December, 2012, 08:20

    I once voted for a similar ballot amendment and I regretted it the second after I left the voting both.
    The fact is is we do rely too much on foreign resources for energy. We do need to develop more energy at home. But no one told me that those huge wind turbines are a slaughter house for hawks and eagle and many other birds. Or that it would turn into the cash grab that was solyndra. And why didn’t Romney just once run an add against Solyndra and all those other ponsi schemes. I have like to check Romney’s bank account to see if he got a huge check from Obama after the election. That would be the only way I could rationalize such a bad performance.

    Reply this comment
  3. Bob Smith
    Bob Smith 29 December, 2012, 11:28

    Easily forseeable consequences aren’t unintended.

    Reply this comment
  4. Sierras grandma
    Sierras grandma 29 December, 2012, 15:07

    Large hydro is not considered renewable, but small hydro is according to the insert included with the PGE bill showing 2011 energy content. If large hydro was included, PGE would have already met its mandate in 2011. Pretty stupid!!!

    Reply this comment
  5. Rob McMillin
    Rob McMillin 29 December, 2012, 21:36

    There is a hidden irony in the greens’ eternal demand for more subsidy, both capital and operational, and it is this: virtually every dime comes from economic activity fueled by fossil fuels. In other words, what they’re saying is: our “energy of the future”, to provide the same benefits as fossil fuels, requires fossil fuels.

    This is a disturbing admission.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ron Kilmartin
    Ron Kilmartin 30 December, 2012, 00:11

    What is in the Legislator drinking fountains that they all think they are wizards on electric power systems planning? So far I have seen 20-30 years of stupidity on electric power legislation from Sacramento. There are too many ignorance ions in their water fountains.

    Carbon dioxide has no statistically proven effect on global mean temperatures. Our (i.e. CA voters) meek acceptance of the green lie of anthropogenic global warming will result in unbelievable economic dislocations that by the end of 2013 will have their cumulative damaging effects on the state economy. CA voters meekly gave Brown his prop. 30 tax increase, but the tax yield will be zilch compared his wild projections. To get taxes from the people, they have to make money in the first place. If there are zilch tax revenues, there is no money for bureaucrats. That is not a bad thing, and firing a bunch of them could be the beginning of a comeback in 2014 or 2015. Cull the un-needed Energy Department and CARB for starters; both are based on the carbon lie.

    Reply this comment
  7. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 30 December, 2012, 20:51

    There are six power plants off the grid already due to the use of pet-coke. They by-product was being sold to cement manufacturers as synthetic gypsum. No waste folks.

    Secondly, there are tons of plants also coming off the grid in the next 5 years due to using ocean or delta water for cooling. Thousands upon thousands of megawatts to be replaced by what … solar? Really?

    Good luck with that.

    Reply this comment
  8. Carla Virga
    Carla Virga 31 December, 2012, 09:45

    On a 3-2 vote, the Sutter County Planning Commission recently approved turning 260 acres of prime agricultural land into 250 acres of solar panels — a $150,000,000 project of New West Renewable Resources, Inc., Los Angeles. Homeowners adjacent to the property knew nothing of the project; and there were 10 days over the holidays to file an appeal. The homeowners successfully jumped through the hoops and the appeal has been filed.

    Reply this comment

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