In August, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 100, mandating all retail electricity consumed in the state be generated from renewable sources by 2045.
The move aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but will come at a great cost to Golden State taxpayers. Still, others contend that the change may actually result in greater greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite slow growth in recent quarters, California is doubling down on its renewable energy push. As part of the changes, another short-term target was also ratcheted up, requiring state utilities to hit 60 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Currently, California is home to some of the most ambitious environmental and energy regulations in the country.
For the time being, Californians are largely supportive of their economy-wide emissions cap-and-trade program. While two-thirds support state-level climate change models that exceed federal mandates, SB 100 also garnered support from 81 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans.
However, that support could turn to outrage as residents are increasingly confronted with the negative impact of far-left environmental policies—not only on their pocketbooks but also on the environment itself. At 15.23 cents per kilowatt, Californians already pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country. This is well above the national average of 10.27 cents per kilowatt.
Devin Hartman of the R Street Institute believes that the top-down renewable expansion is going to drive up energy prices in the state. “That is going to happen despite the fact that the per unit costs of producing energy from renewables will continue to go down,” he says.
Because of the variability in renewable power, sudden drops in generation require that non-renewable power plants be kept online when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun shining. The end result? More carbon dioxide and other actual pollutants. Germany built more coal plants to backend a higher ratio of renewables, for example.
To make matters worse, peak solar production often occurs when demand is low, creating a strain on the power grid and forcing grid operators to curtail generation by charging producers to send power out. These dynamics incentivize expensive storage methods or alternatively lead to excess power being wasted or offloaded to other utilities.
Meanwhile, Texas’ light-touch regulatory approach combined with free market competition has led to five-times the amount of wind power California produces, and 29 percent more renewable power (excluding hydroelectric). Electric rates in Texas are also 89 percent lower than in California.
The Texas approach illustrates perfectly how a largely hands-off model produces a more sustainable carbon-reduction solution that makes sense economically.
Hartman sees Texas’ model as one that can produce results that others will notice. “If we can demonstrate, as the Texas model is, that we can drive pollution reductions in a way that benefits our economic self-interest, that’s a model that the world is more likely to follow. That’s what climate leadership is about.”