Renewable energy (RE) doesn’t work and it exacerbates climate change by locking in fossil fuels as a backup fuel over RE’s inherent unreliability and intermittent qualities that makes electricity prices more expensive than fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) and nuclear energy. Countries like Denmark and Germany that have embraced renewable energy wholeheartedly now find segments of their population suffering energy poverty over higher electricity rates. Unfortunately on May 9th the California Energy Commission (CEC) by a 5-0 vote approved, “a first-in-the-nation plan to mandate the installation of solar panels on all new homes beginning in 2020.” Later this month the regulation is expected to gain final approval for implementation by the California Building Standards Commission (BSC).

This pro-solar decision will cause California to suffer the same fate as Germany and Denmark. Since California’s solar-energy build-out began in 2011, energy prices have risen 24 percent. Abigail Ross Hopper, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s CEO believes this a positive, momentous decision by California when he stated:

“California has long been our nation’s biggest solar champion. Now, California is taking bold leadership again, recognizing that solar should be as commonplace as the front door that welcomes you home.”

Many proponents of RE – particularly solar advocates – consistently speak about falling solar panel prices and lower energy when using solar: herehere and here as examples. That isn’t the case. Michael Shellenberger, Forbes contributor and President of Environmental Progress gives a hypothesis that says, “as electricity from solar and wind became cheaper, other energy sources like coal, nuclear and natural gas became more expensive.” Thus prices were raised eliminating overall energy savings.

The exact opposite happened. Natural gas declined 72 percent between 2009-2016 due to fracking and European natural gas prices dropped by almost half during the same period. The price of coal and nuclear stayed flat during these time frames, “despite increased demand for those two fuels in California and Germany.” Then why did California’s prices go up 5X more than the rest of the US between 2011-2017? RE is the answer and implementing solar panels on all new homes after 2020 will dramatically raise prices more than $10,000, which the current speculation says, will occur.

Shellenberger gives another hypothesis stating, “the closure of nuclear plants resulted in higher energy prices.” Evidence for this shows that nuclear energy leaders Illinois, France, Sweden and South Korea, “enjoy some of the cheapest electricity in the world.” However, California, since 2010 closed one nuclear plant that had 2,140 MW installed capacity while Germany closed 5 nuclear plants and 4 different reactors at operating plants with 10,980 MW total. Electricity is 42 percent cheaper in Illinois than electricity in California and in France it is 45 percent cheaper than it is in Germany.

The facts point to RE causing energy prices to move higher when extensively deployed in the case of California. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2017 that California electricity prices were increasing, “but failed to connect the price rise to renewables.” This provoked a heated rebuke from UC-Berkeley economist James Bushnell who said:

“The story of how California’s electric system got to its current state is a long and gory one, but the dominant policy driver in the electricity sector has unquestionably been a focus on developing renewable sources of electricity generation.”

But why would cheaper solar panels – so the rational goes – at the CEC be a terrible regulation? In 2013, a German economist, Lion Hirth published a paper in Energy Policy that correctly predicted, “that the economic value of wind and solar would decline significantly as they become a larger part of electricity supply.” The reason is RE’s (particularly solar):

“Are ‘fundamentally unreliable,’ and produce excess energy that societies and electrical grids aren’t equipped to handle. Thus solar requires, “that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice (peak demand) to start churning out electricity when the sun stops shining.”

Places like California, Germany and Denmark now pay other states and nations to take their excess solar and wind energy. California even set new records for solar reduction in March and April. The new regulation will worsen this problem.

Hirth postulated the value of solar, “would drop by 50 percent when it got to just 15 percent of energy consumption.” In 2017 California reached 23 percent of energy generation from solar so it doesn’t matter if solar panels are cheaper, or if the CEC mandates their widespread use, this regulation will cause electricity to further increase and home prices to escalate more than $10,000 per newly built home. UC-Berkeley economist Lucas Davis remarkedabout the mandate, “As more and more rooftop solar gets installed, that pushes the cost onto all the non-solar customers.”

For California policymakers, the CEC, and BSC there are additional factors to consider. California regulators believe solar roofs will only add $9,500 in new building costs though “the average price of a solar roof in California is $19,380.” California already has the second-most-expensive homes in the nation, the third worst state home ownership for millennials and we are in the deepest housing crisis since the Great Depression. Solar roofs are also twice as expensive as solar farms; currently, California receives five percent of its electricity from solar roofs, and 11 percent from solar farms. Statistically speaking – it would take California over 100 years of solar-roof-building – to replace the clean energy produced by both state nuclear plants. During those 100 years, “all solar panels would need to be replaced at least three times, given the degradation of panels.”

This prompted the state’s top energy economist, UC-Berkeley’s, Severin Borenstein to criticize the CEC over approving the new regulation with little public debate or discussion by stating to CEC Chairman Robert Weisenmiller: “This would be a very expensive way to expand renewables.”

The main driver of higher electricity prices is the state’s heavy deployment of solar and other renewables.

California will bankrupt itself and its citizens by pursuing RE and relying heavily on solar energy. Two inherent reasons that policymakers should consider before final adherence to this policy is solar relies on sunlight that is dilute, requires,

“10 to 15 times as much materials and mining, and up to 5,000 times more land, than non-renewables (fossil fuels and nuclear).”

Besides needing fossil fuel backup that enhances reliance on fossil fuel, adding solar panels to California’s grid in larger quantities will only increase the cost of electricity and “increase the environmental footprint of energy production.” Proponents argue that emissions decreased in California because of RE policies – and yes emissions did decrease by 19 percent in 2016 – but two-thirds of that decline came from hydro-electric dams due to a rainier year – only one-third came from increased solar or wind. The state’s energy policies had nothing to do with emission reduction. Fluctuating energy that even comes from state dams show that RE cannot be relied upon in any scenario to deliver homes for Californians, save money for ratepayers or reduce climate change. This policy should be rejected by California elected officials, ratepayers and homeowners.


UPDATE: The sentence, ““The main driver of higher electricity prices is the state’s heavy deployment of solar and other renewables.” was incorrectly put in quotes by the author of this piece, Todd Royal,and attributed to Severin Borenstein. Those were Todd’s thoughts based on his experience. Todd apologizes for the error. The sentence in quotes should not be attributed to Mr. Borenstein.