California solar power imposing its costs on non-consumers

posted at 3:31 pm on December 18, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

California seems almost singularly determined to become the most true-blue and subsequently expensive state in the union, and the results of their liberal governance are continuing to bear fruit — and I somehow doubt that California’s legislative supermajority will make any serious attempts at mitigating the pending implosion.

Not only are Californians looking at some of the highest effective tax rates and biggest budget problems in the country by a long shot, but their energy prices just keep on bloating, thanks to the state’s renewable-subsidizing policies:

Booming rooftop solar installations in California are bringing an unwelcome surprise to the homes and businesses that don’t have the devices: an extra $1.3 billion added to their annual bills, more than half of that for Pacific Gas & Electric customers.

Power companies in the state, the nation’s biggest for solar power, are required to buy electricity from home solar generators at the same price they resell it to other customers, meaning utilities earn nothing to cover their fixed costs. The rules are shortsighted because eventually rates must be raised to make up the difference, according to Southern California Edison, which has joined with competitors to estimate potential losses.

As more homes and warehouses get covered in solar panels, higher rates imposed on traditional consumers risk a growing conflict between renewable-energy advocates and power companies that foresee a backlash in California and 42 other states with similar policies.

According to the Department of Energy, Californians spent a total of $33.5 billion in 2010, meaning that $1.3 billion is a not-insignificant number in terms of the costs imposed on consumers. Will this deter California’s commitment to backing the oh-so-promising technologies they (along with our federal government) have so wisely decided are the winning energies of the future? …I won’t hold my breath.

The promise of clean and cheap solar energy is getting a second look in California, where utilities are required to get a third of their power from renewable power by 2020. But after millions in tax breaks and handouts, the industry’s honeymoon is over with some counties and ratepayers, as the expected jobs, savings and revenue have not materialized.

California’s Riverside County is producing more solar energy than anywhere in the U.S., with close to a dozen solar plants either online or proposed.

“On the face of it, it looks like a good deal. They talk about all these huge jobs and long-term benefits to the county. The truth is, it’s a very short term,” Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit said. “We’re going to be carrying the burden of having these types of facilities for decades to come, and because of the incentives that have been provided by federal and state government, there’s virtually nothing left for the county government or the local people to get benefit back after the small number of construction jobs are gone.”

Ah, well — at least the energy-related news coming out of California isn’t all discouraging. As with the rest of the country’s economic problems, the oil and natural gas boom instigated by hydraulic fracturing could be the state’s saving grace with the influx of jobs, wealth, and revenue it would provide. If they’ll let it, that is, by taking advantage of their wildly abundant natural resources without strangling the industry with their reliably zealous regulatory climate:

Under pressure from state lawmakers and environmentalists, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration on Tuesday released draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the controversial drilling process driving a national oil and gas boom.

The rules come after oil regulators hosted a series of public workshops this year to assuage public concern over the procedure, which involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to tap oil. …

Regulators labeled the proposed regulations a “discussion draft,” saying in a statement that they were “a starting point for discussion by key stakeholders” and would not trigger the formal rulemaking process, which is expected to begin early next year.


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