California’s huge solar projects causing energy poverty


The solar farms are part of a plan first adopted by executive order by Schwarzenegger and later expanded by current Gov. Jerry Brown. By 2020, California is to produce one-third of its electricity from renewable sources. By 2030, that’s supposed to rise to one-half. Of course, the current four-year drought has tossed a wrench into some calculations behind those mandates, causing enormous cuts in the power produced by hydroelectric dams for more than a century.

One result has been more dependence on solar and wind power, far more expensive components of the state’s portfolio of renewables.

Overall, the emphasis on expensive solar farms — some so high-priced that the scandal-ridden state Public Utilities Commission refuses to publish their actual costs — has raised wind and solar energy production to about 12 percent of California’s total power usage. The cost of that energy comes to about $84 per megawatt hour, compared to the average $46 per megawatt hour wholesale cost of electricity, according to a new report from the conservative-oriented Manhattan Institute, headquartered in New York.

As these developments advanced, California power prices increased by 35 percent, to where they are now 40 percent above the national average. The cost for power from California’s privately owned utilities ranged from 18 cents to 21 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with 12 cents nationally.

That has caused what the Manhattan Institute calls energy poverty in some of the poorest parts of California, a phenomenon that will surely increase by 2018, when the utilities commission activates its new two-tier rate structure, designed to lower rates for big users and raise them for the more power-efficient. (by Thomas D. Elias, Los Angeles Daily News)