Regulatory Commissars

California's 100% Clean-Energy Scheme

By 2045, the Golden State aims to get all of its electricity from carbon-free sources.

Jordan Candler · Sep. 13, 2018

By 2045, the California Department of Finance approximates state population levels climbing to 48 million. That’s a lot of people to (try to) force into renewable energy servitude. Nevertheless, new legislation attempts to impose complete restrictions on fossil-fueled electricity by 2045 — all to mitigate what Gov. Jerry Brown deems the “existential threat of climate change.”

The Washington Post reports, “On Monday, the state’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, signed into law a landmark bill committing California to getting 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045. The state is giving itself a deadline of 2030 to get 60 percent of its power from renewable energy, up from 50 percent by that same year under the state’s previous requirements.”

According to The Washington Times, “Mr. Brown signed the measure over the objections of the state’s utility and agricultural sectors, including the Agricultural Council of California, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and the Western States Petroleum Association. Critics have argued that the bill is unrealistic and will compound the state’s problems with rolling brownouts and high energy prices. Natural-gas plants are used to make up for gaps when the sun fails to shine and the wind doesn’t blow.”

Their consternation is salient. In fact, the American Action Forum (AAF) says that “California can expect, like other places that have adopted ambitious renewable portfolio standards, to see a big increase in the cost of its electricity in exchange for uncertain benefits.” AAF adds:

Germany implemented its own RPS [renewable portfolio standard] in 2000 with similar standards as California (a target for 80 percent renewable electricity by 2050, and 35 percent renewable electricity by 2020). Electricity prices in Germany are more than double the U.S. average (roughly $0.34 per kilowatt hour, compared to a U.S. average of $0.13), largely because of their renewable requirements: More than half of what Germans pay for electricity are surcharges, including ones to pay for state-mandated subsidies for renewable energy.

Furthermore, “The principle objective of an RPS is to reduce pollution. But assessments of environmental policy consistently find that top-down mandates are inefficient policies for reducing pollution, because a government mandate does not create incentives for producers to pursue opportunities for pollution abatement beyond what the government requires.” And that’s to say nothing of the fact the scheme “may not even be met.” Why? “Managing the electricity supply is very complex, and numerous places that have set such standards have failed to meet them.” And even if California did somehow make it happen, it’s hard to imagine that its population won’t suffer. Even so, such far-reaching issues are ones wherein federalism shines. Who can blame people who invoke it?

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