The LA Times recently reported on a new study that found that there are two paths to move the country off fossil fuels towards 100% clean energy.
One path would save American consumers $473 billion over the next thirty years.
The other path would cost American consumers $385 billion over the same time period.
Which scenario is which? We don’t think you will be surprised by the answer.
But you may be shocked to learn that the utility industry and Gov. Newsom’s administration is leaning towards the scenario that will cost consumers more money.
More detail below, including how you can get our state leaders to shake off the utility industry’s snake oil and forge a better path for the good of the public and the environment.
Cleaning up the grid by helping tens of millions of people choose rooftop solar and storage could save consumers $473 billion.
The study, conducted by Dr. Christopher Clack, found that getting to 100% clean energy by helping more people install rooftop and local solar and storage would save consumers $473 billion, compared to what electricity would otherwise cost.
Cleaning up the grid with mostly large-scale, far-away wind and solar farms (instead of local solar) would cost consumers $385 billion.
Researchers found that eliminating fossil fuel use mostly through large scale solar and wind farms would cost consumers $385 billion more over the next 30 years.
This is in part because adding utility scale solar and wind to the grid would still mean pumping energy through our expensive and dangerous web of long-distance power lines.
Long distance power lines are really expensive, and unreliable. Doubling down on them is insane.
Our utility infrastructure of high-powered transmission lines that stretch hundreds of miles is old and crumbling. It is already incredibly expensive to restore and maintain. Some estimate repairing or replacing the existing U.S. electric grid would cost consumers trillions in updates.
Already, consumers are bearing the brunt of costly, outdated power lines. Pacific Gas & Electric announced that they’ll raise electric rates for their customers by 8%, effective March 1, 2021, to improve infrastructure and reduce wildfire risk. This comes not long after the California utility filed for bankruptcy, after their faulty, outdated equipment ignited record-breaking wildfires.
Meanwhile, the solution is right under our noses. Thanks to rooftop solar and energy efficiency, state officials scaled back over twenty massive grid maintenance projects and saved the state $2.6 billion in 2018 alone.
Rooftop solar and storage is the biggest win-win-win since the word “win” was invented.
Other studies are making similar conclusions. The group Rewiring America found that helping consumers switch to all-electric homes and cars powered with rooftop solar and batteries would save the average California household $2,500 per year.
So Governor Newsom and other state officials are totally gung ho on expanding rooftop solar and battery storage, right? Wrong.
As the LA Times reported last week, Governor Newsom’s office declined to comment when asked for his thoughts on boosting rooftop solar and battery storage as a strategy to mitigate power outages and reduce fossil fuel use.
Instead, the Governor’s office punted the question to the CA Public Utilities Commision (CPUC), the same people who let PG&E’s negligence off the hook for decades.
This would also be the same regulator being relentlessly lobbied by the utilities to kill off the growth of all local solar by gutting net metering. Net metering lets solar users share their extra solar energy with their neighbors for a bill credit. It’s the cornerstone of California solar.
Without leadership from Governor Newsom, we worry that the CPUC will side with the utilities, like they’ve done so many times before.
How do we get on the right path to save billions of dollars with more rooftop solar and storage, and not waste billions of dollars doubling down on the old monopoly utilities?
It starts at the top. Governor Newsom needs to understand that he can be remembered in one of two ways:
1) As the guy who liberated us from budget-crushing energy bills and power outages and saved the planet.
2) Or the guy who chained us to decades of rolling blackouts and expensive monopoly power in the name of looking “green”.
Here are two ways Governor Newsom can choose the first path:
Governor Newsom should make sure the CPUC does not gut net metering.
This is simple and hopefully requires little explanation. Take action.
Governor Newsom should make our local governments cut the red tape that drives up the cost of installing solar.
As the LA Times outlined, inefficient paperwork, permitting and inspection processes at the city level increase the cost of installing solar by thousands of dollars.
Here’s an example: Australians can install solar for one-third of the cost of U.S. solar installations, often with zero interest financing.
The US treats solar and storage installations like home construction projects––which require lengthy building permit application and approval processes.
In contrast, other countries manage solar and batteries more simply, almost like adding an appliance to your house, which eliminates the need to spend money navigating complicated and redundant permitting requirements.
Governor Newsom could use his power to push localities to adopt SolarAPP+ (Solar Automated Permit Processing Plus), a software designed by the National Renewable Energy Lab to make solar permit processes uniform across jurisdictions and automate application reviews.
Indeed, we are at a crossroads, with the financial and environmental health of billions of people at stake. Will Governor Newsom rise to the occasion? Stay tuned.