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California Mandates 100 Percent Renewable Energy By 2045

The state's top-down approach to energy issues will only raise rates on consumers.

Dmitrii Melnikov/Dreamstime.comDmitrii Melnikov/Dreamstime.comNever ones to shy away from sweeping regulatory mandates, California politicians are now demanding that the state adopt 100 percent renewable energy before mid-century.

On Tuesday, the state legislature passed S.B. 100, which requires that all retail electricity consumed in the state come from renewable sources—meaning solar, wind, geothermal, and small hydroelectric plants—by the end of 2045. California's shorter-term renewable energy targets are also ratcheted up, with the state's utilities now required to hit 60 percent renewable energy by 2030. The previous target for that year had been 50 percent.

These are ambitious goals to say the least, and ones that the state's utilities, agricultural interests, and large power consumers argue will drive up the state's energy prices—already some of the highest in the nation. (Californian pay on average 15.23 cents per kilowatt of power, well above the U.S. average of 10.27 cents per kilowatt.)

Proponents however have insisted the 100 percent renewable target is necessary to combat climate change.

"When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won't back down. We have taken another great stride toward a 100% clean energy future," said bill sponsor Sen. Kevin De Leon (D–Los Angeles) in a statement to the Sacramento Bee. De Leon—currently running to replace current California Sen. Diane Feinstein (D)—has even suggested taking these targets national as part of a Green New Deal.

Fighting climate change is a laudable goal, says Devin Hartman of the R Street Institute, a free market think tank. Unfortunately, California has picked the most expensive way to do it.

"The top down planning approach to renewable expansion is going to be really expensive, and is going to be a lot more than the per unit costs we have seen to date," says Hartman. "That is going to happen despite the fact that the per unit costs of producing energy from renewables will continue to go down."

The problem says Hartman is that energy grids require demand and supply to be balanced instantaneously, something renewables like solar and wind—whose energy production is based on when the sun is shining or the breeze is blowing—have difficulty doing.

As the state government has mandated an increasing use of these power sources, this mismatch between demand and supply, particularly in the afternoons when demand is lower but solar production is at its peak, has become more difficult, and costlier to manage.

The state's electricity grid operator, CAISO, reports that it is increasingly having to curtail solar production, either through charging solar producers to send electricity to the grid (as opposed to buying it from them) or ordering solar plants to reduce output.

CAISO warns that these curtailments will only increase as California mandates more renewable energy in the years ahead, meaning solar and wind producers will be forced to sell more and more power at below market rates, or otherwise build expensive, uneconomical power storage, all of which will raise costs. Hitting the state's renewable energy targets, says CAISO, will also require overbuilding renewable energy plants—essentially adding more power generating capacity than the system is able to absord—a practice it warns "is not financially sound."

Forging ahead with this approach will not only rebound on California ratepayers, it could also undercut the goals of California's politicians in spurring proactive approaches to climate change around the world.

"When other countries are going to look at California and see they're decarbonizing, but they're driving out industry, there's huge political turmoil because their rates are going up so much. That's not really climate leadership," says Hartman.

He points to places like Texas which have taken a lighter-touch approach to energy regulation, instead leaving it mostly up to private investors responding to price signals to determine when and where renewable energy investments get made.

The result has been the Lone Star state now gets nearly 20 percent of its power from wind and solar (the vast majority of that being wind) while also seeing its electricity costs decline in real terms.

This, Hartman says, is both more economically sound and ultimately more politically sustainable solution to cutting carbon emissions.

"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."

Photo Credit: Dmitrii Melnikov/Dreamstime.com

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I wonder if they'll start building huge battery fields to handle this and to deal with downtime? I hope we do get some big jump in battery storage soon, but it's not the most efficient thing for sure.

  • albo||

    How about reservoir pump storage? Do they have any good river valleys for that?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Even if they do, the Enviroweenies are sure to have hairy cat-fits over any dam building. The only reason they don't out and protest the use of vast tracts of land for wind and solar power is that neither one has any chance whatsoever of being practical.

    *spit*

  • Brandybuck||

    Can't do it. Delta smelt.

  • Rossami||

    Reservoir pump storage does not affect existing waterways. River valleys are not strictly required. What it does require is a whopping great mesa. Failing that, you need a really big hill or mountain which can be chopped off flat and then cored out to make the reservoir at the top. (You also need an equivalent sized reservoir at the bottom and room for your power generation equipment but those aren't usually the constraint. You can use an existing water feature as the source and sink but those aren't much affected.)

    In other words, massive habitat destruction - but mountainous habitat, not valley or river habitat.

  • DaveSs||

    Its also extremely inefficient because it requires additional daytime capacity to be built for the sole purpose of refilling the reservoir during the day so that it can be used again at night.

  • rferris||

    Near Fresno there is California's only such system..........It is fairly old but in continuous operation. During the day they pump water up to the higher reservoir and at night they generate some power as it fall back down to the lower lake.
    This takes up a lot of space and only generates a modest amount of power.
    Since Cal. will not build new dams it is doubtful that a huge two lake system for power would be built.................but you never know as we are building a train to nowhere, we might build a bunch of lakes.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    I find it amusing that the State with the most coast-line is completely ignoring the one renewable that generates around the clock - wave and tidal generation.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I didn't know Sony Bono had a goat.

  • El Oso||

    'Fighting climate change is a laudable goal, says Devin Hartman of the R Street Institute, a free market think tank.'

    Fighting climate change is a fool's errand - says El Oso

  • damikesc||

    Such a laudable goal that the free market won't touch it without substantial government interference.

  • ||

    Fighting climate change is a fool's errand - says El Oso

    Fighting climate change is a filthy con perpetrated by liars.

  • perlchpr||

    What are you talking about? You can't possibly mean that the idea of halting the progress of the entire planet's climate so that it doesn't change in any direction, nor alter in general humidity, CO2 content, or anything else, is completely and utterly impossible?

  • DrZ||

    "Fighting climate change is a fool's errand"

    What you say is true, but at least we have banned plastic straws in California. One bad balances one greater good.

  • rudehost||

    "The problem says Hartman is that energy grids require demand and supply to be balanced instantaneously, something renewables like solar and wind—whose energy production is based on when the sun is shining or the breeze is blowing—have difficulty doing."

    Not a problem. They will simply pass a bill mandating that the wind blows and the sun shines 24/7 by the year 2030.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Shades of Bastiat's petitition from the candlemakers!

  • rudehost||

    Good reference. Or Hercules threatening to punish the oceans because the waves irritated him. Maybe they should have a system of quotas and mandates for the sun backed by rigorous enforcement and fines for non-compliance.

  • Brandybuck||

    Don't forget hydro. While not immediately problematic, if we dam up every river you just exacerbate the drought problem. The choice could come down to "do you want to grow food or power the lights in the capital building". You know who would win in that situation.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    What's the odds regulations on dam building is so great that building one would take until 2050?

  • CE||

    Don't worry, Californians want to un-dam all the rivers.

  • Otto Didact||

    "Not a problem. They will simply pass a bill mandating that the wind blows and the sun shines 24/7 by the year 2030."

    Yes and the whole group of laws/regulations resulting will be called the "Canute Acts" - with approximately the same level of success.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    So CA is going to build nuclear plants, right?

  • Brandybuck||

    Not technically renewable. We only have a finite supply of uranium ore. And we lose all access to it if California goes through on its promise to secede from Trumpland.

  • Speaker||

    >Not technically renewable. We only have a finite supply of uranium ore.

    The sun technically isn't renewable either. But there is more than enough of uranium to go around and if there real issue is carbon then it produces little to none.

  • perlchpr||

    The biggest issue isn't "is there enough uranium to continue powering the plants", it's "we're forbidden by international treaty from re-processing 'spent' fuel rods, which are basically 98% 'still good', but they just aren't efficient enough at 98% to keep using, so they have to swap them out for new 100% ones, which means we generate 50x as much nuclear waste as necessary and that shit is hard to deal with".

    Uh, so, yeah. We really need to renegotiate certain aspects of the SALT II treaty.

  • JFree||

    Exactly what treaty forbids us from reprocessing spent fuels while permitting France/UK/India/Russia/Japan/China/Pakistan to reprocess spent fuels?

  • DRM||

    SALT II was never ratified, the preliminary agreement expired in 1985, and the US abandoned compliance in 1986.

  • DrZ||

    While it is true that we generate more nuclear waste because we do not reprocess, the volume of waste is still small. If I recall correctly, the total U.S. output from electrical generation would cover a basketball court about 2-3 feet. Of course, playing basketball there would not be a good idea.

    I may be off on the volume, but it's not a huge amount. It's complicated though because not all the waste coming out of nuclear plants requires long-term storage.

    Reprocessing is the better way in any event.

  • rferris||

    No, we are shutting down Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, even though it could run another 50 years easily.
    Too much regulatory uncertainty for PG&E to even try to renew their license.
    We are removing small hydro dams for the fish to have more habitat.
    We are diverting water to the 75+ year dry San Joaquin river to restore the long ago fish to the dry river bed. Water washed out to the sea when 1/3 of the San Joaquin valleys farmland cannot get enough water to farm.
    No plastic bags, straws and soon something else.
    We all drive cars but won't allow oil extraction.
    We love poor people so much that we only build 500,000.00 homes for them.
    We believe a gas that is only 4 1/100 of 1% of the atmosphere controls the climate, and the sun is irrelevant
    PROGRESSIVES in California leading the USA into a glorious future.

  • Otto Didact||

    When you factor in all the energy (of necessity coming from hydrocarbon fuels) consumed mining, refining and enriching uranium, the "carbon footprint" of a nuclear plant using fuel derived from other than high grade ore is at best a wash vs simply using the fuel directly and at worst even larger than simply burning the fuel.

    When you factor in the CO2 generated from making most things, then so-called "green" technologies stop being so "green". Think about it for a moment. Sure an all-electric vehicle has zero carbon footprint in and of itself; but how much hydrocarbon fuel had to be consumed to generate the electricity to run that vehicle? Remember Heinlein's word/saying "TANSTAAFL" (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). The very idea of a "free lunch" violates the first law of thermodynamics. Solar cells aren't good either because they are hideously inefficient. And they are energy hogs to produce, too.

    Nope! Nope! Ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Never has been; never CAN be.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Electricity cheap as Germany's! As plentiful and reliable as Venezuela!

    The future belongs to California!

  • damikesc||

    Technically, zero electricity is rather cheap.

    And, let's be honest --- this won't impact the rich folks who champion this stuff. They will only impact the poor who have to deal with this nonsense.

    I'd be more impressed if the bill sponsors mandated the wealthiest parts of the state would be the top priority to lose power in the case of needed blackouts.

  • Brandybuck||

    That was already the case during the California brown outs in the early naughts.

  • CE||

    And when they fix the power grid, then they'll start to work on the water shortage.

  • damikesc||

    "When it comes to fighting climate change and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, California won't back down. We have taken another great stride toward a 100% clean energy future," said bill sponsor Sen. Kevin De Leon (D–Los Angeles) in a statement to the Sacramento Bee. De Leon—currently running to replace current California Sen. Diane Feinstein (D)—has even suggested taking these targets national as part of a Green New Deal.

    As, I think, Sean Davis pointed out --- they might learn that the only thing worse than rolling blackouts...are non-rolling blackouts.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Dont worry. California will be a smoldering wasteland by then.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    They'll be buried under their own poop and piles of dirty hypodermic needles.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    And straws. I have been sending various CA politicians boxes of straws for months.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    Callifornia will become the Detroit of the States.

  • albo||

    This is going to work as well as Germany's Energiewende--high electric bills and still using hydrocarbon plants at night.

    But VIRTUOUS!

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    They will do what they do with water. Raise taxes to buy the shortage from other States.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Question I have never gotten an answer to: solar power takes energy out of a dynamic system. What side effects does this have?

  • H. Farnham||

    The side-effects include rainbows that shower glitter gumdrops down on the homeless to provide them with non-GMO nourishment. The fossil fuel companies only want to smother the homeless in smog. Now stop asking questions and get with the program.

  • Rossami||

    Greenfield installations (the industrial-scale fields of solar panels) are the cause of massive habitat destruction as land is covered over. The maintenance lanes between the panels also quickly become packed down, further destroying the capacity of the land to support even weeds or insects.

    The impermeable nature of the panels and roads increases water run-off and erosion and inhibits the regeneration of local groundwater.

    Since the available installation locations are not near people, you generally have to increase the habitat given over to transmission lines and other power distribution overhead.

    Since we've killed off all the trees and grasses at the installations, we also lose the beneficial effects of wind barriers, transpiration, etc.

    The solar panels are black but still not fully absorptive of the solar energy. Some of that energy is released back to the immediate environment as heat - and at different frequencies and times than if the energy were reflected/released by vegetation. This will lead to micro-climate changes and influences local weather patterns.

    All told, installing a solar plant is about the ecological equivalent of paving over the entire area with asphalt.

  • perlchpr||

    All told, installing a solar plant is about the ecological equivalent of paving over the entire area with asphalt.

    Which, props where props are due; The Wal-Mart in Truth or Consequences, NM has basically roofed over their entire parking lot (and possibly the entire store roof) with solar panels. Which, in the case of the roof, might have a secondary benefit in providing a thermal insulation layer keeping solar radiation off the roof itself, lowering the A/C bills. :D

  • Rossami||

    Very true. I meant to contrast greenfield installations to distributed solar (which has fewer adverse side effects). I got distracted and lost that part of the thread.

    Distributed solar's adverse side effects include:
    - First, you now have a complicated and hazardous high-voltage electrical appliance all over your roof when the fire department comes.
    - Second, you still have some of the energy distortion based on differential reflection/reemission though the differential is smaller. Concrete roof to panel vs vegetation to panel.
    - Third, distributed solar is less efficient than institutional so it takes more panels - and that means more heavy metals, upstream costs of production and downstream costs of disposal.
    - Finally and counterintuitively, distributed solar actually requires more power distribution infrastructure. You'd think that you'd need less high-tension power lines (and you probably do) but any potential gain is overwhelmed by the need to back up your purely local solar generation capacity with dispatchable generation capacity. And since the output of your solar array is inherently coupled to your neighbors (same weather pattern) the variability of demand on the dispatchable generation goes way up - and variability drives cost.

    We've gotten away from the strictly environmental side effects so I'm not sure that we're still answering C.S.P.'s original question. But yeah, solar on an existing rooftop is a lot less bad than new installation.

  • Whorton||

    Don't forget, its unsightly.

  • BILKER||

    But it will supply a few minimum wage jobs keeping the bird crap off the solar panel roof. Maybe the few inches of rain water can keep them clean. Of course the rain water could also help reduce dependence on water treatment facilities. The laws in some areas will have to be changed to allow saving rain water since many progressive areas make it illegal to collect rain water since it does not go into ground water renewal. Then to begin using the stored rain water large filters will have to be used to remove the dangers from the bird crap washed of the solar roof into the rainwater collection systems.

  • Whorton||

    Excellent points all. I am just waiting for some enterprising environmental group to take a stand on the loss of scenic beauty due to wind farms. Or the fact that more eagles are being killed by turbines than DDT ever did.

  • Otto Didact||

    Great Britain is having a real problem with their wind farms killing migratory birds. Seems the migration paths and optimal wind areas coincide well. So British turbines are killing a shedload of birds.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    No. PV Panel albedo is about 0.3 which is far "better" than asphalt (~0.05) and roughly the same as the average Earth albedo. In addition to that the panels are generating electricity (say 10% efficiency or about 70W/m2) and exporting that power to another location (where nearly all of it will be turned into heat). So locally panels stand a decent chance of actually cooling the environment. But the reality is that unless you're changing from something radical like asphalt to panels or ice to panels, it's probably not going to have that much of an impact.

  • BYODB||

    California voters get exactly what they want, good and hard.

  • Brandybuck||

    It's impossible to do. Not enough rivers to dam up, not enough deserts to pave over. Only a tiny few areas are windy enough to allow for bird mulchers.

    Nuclear power is carbon free, but it's also not renewable. It's insane to ban it at the same time. Ditto for other solutions. Imagine a miraculous breakthrough in fusion power. It would be illegal, because it's not renewable. Zero carbon emissions, but illegal.

    Other than hydro and geo, all alternative energy sources are useless for reliable power generation. And there's not enough rivers to dam up, plus we have to worry about the delta smelt, plus the amount of viable geo is so damned small it might as well not be included. So we need something else. If we can't burn something then the only alternative we have for the foreseeable future is some sort of nuclear.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Find a way to tie crossfitters to the grid.

  • BYODB||

    I'm pretty sure Rick and Morty did an episode where they did almost exactly this. Of course, in that scenario food becomes the new gasoline.

  • Whorton||

    Let all those overly self important narcissistic Silicon Valley and Elon Musk types discover some new secret energy source. They have been condescending to the rest of America for the last few years about how they are the best and brightest.

    Gonna laugh my ass off when Google server farms cost more to operate than they generate in revenue.

  • Otto Didact||

    Excuse, Mr/Ms Brandybuck, but when you factor in all the energy consumed in the process of producing the nuclear fuel (i.e. mining, refining and enriching the uranium ore to produce even reactor grade uranium) nuclear plants have a LARGER carbon footprint than conventional power plants. TAANSTAAFL

  • Rossami||

    I can't help wondering if this is all part of some sort of real estate play. If they continue generating these self-destructive policies, people will eventually start to leave the state. Those who stay will be able to buy their property cheap. What I can't figure out is the end-game. After they depopulate the state, do they think they'll be able to roll back all those insane regulations? Or are they really true believers who just don't think they'll be hurt by those regulations themselves?

  • ||

    Or are they really true believers who just don't think they'll be hurt by those regulations themselves?

    Yes. And why not? Look at emissions standards and all the labels telling us stuff causes cancer. Trump caps state tax exemptions from Federal taxes and they cry 'not fair'. This isn't just what Californians want *their* government to do, it's what they want *all* government to do.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    Is there a way to SHORT Cali residental real-estate?

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Foreclosure sales as the market crashes? Shorting CA heavy REITs?

  • Whorton||

    Screw 'em, in a few years it will all be Mexicans, who don't give a damn about the beloved "environment." Take a look at satellite photo of Juarez. Almost as bad as a night pic of North Korea.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It won't just raise rates, it won't even pretend to achieve its own goals. I give you my personal guarantee that California won't be within 10,000 miles of 100% renewable energy by 2045. The strides they've made thus far are full of corruption, green-washing and bogus statistics.

  • perlchpr||

    I look forward to 31 Dec 2044, when half the electricity in the state is still natural gas fired, and notionally, all those plants have to shut off at midnight.

    I have a pretty good bet on who blinks.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    The Great Culling will already have taken place, and CA will have been divested of it's progressives. Although the landfills will be quite full.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • GILMORE™||

    The next governor will one-up this by insisting upon 200% green energy by 2100

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    This isn't far from the truth. They could demand a surplus of green energy that would be sold to the surrounding states, thus nudging the rest of America into a green future.

  • Michael Cook||

    By 2045 the entity formerly known as California will be so hopelessly upside down (in unfunded pension debt and obligations incurred building high speed rail lines to move less than 1% of daily commuters and travelers) that the state will be in international receivership.

    That is, if the Chinese controllers and the Mexican cartels even allow anyone to come in and deal with the mess. All that will happen is that the state geographically will become very precisely Balkanized, with a lot of extremely silly liberal laws supposedly enforced, while in reality each zone will be doing what it realistically needs to do to survive with little allegiance to either the federal government or the fools in Sacramento.

  • DRM||

    If you're not building nuclear plants and waste reprocessing facilities, you're not even trying to fight anthropogenic climate change.

  • BILKER||

    Amen DRM. Every new building erected MUST have 100% renewable energy at least in electricity. Solar roofing, solar walls and have wind turbins for each. It would apply to not just homes but businesses, factories, congressional buildings and apartment buildings. and residences for multi familys. And for rentals the rent must be affordable for the median incomes in the area.

  • Jerry B.||

    If California really wants to do something about climate change, the should mandate that China and India have 100% renewable energy by 2030.

    I bet that'd fix it.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    (Californian pay on average 15.23 cents per kilowatt of power, well above the U.S. average of 10.27 cents per kilowatt.)

    I'm in SoCal and would fucking love to pay anywhere close to that rate. I have my current SDG&E bill in front of me right now.

    $531.44 for 1273kWh, 31 days service, electric only

    Fuck this place. I can't afford to live here anymore.

  • Otto Didact||

    MBBTY, a rough calculation puts your cost at 41.75 cents per kWh or 2.7 times Jerry B's stated average and FOUR TIMES what Mr B gave as the National average. And just think. It's only gonna get worse. Donald Trump could not afford to pay me to live in Kali. No fekking way!

  • axiomata||

    Wind turbines will be powered by unicorn farts. Constant stream; no intermittentancy.

  • CE||

    Fighting climate change is a laudable goal, says Devin Hartman of the R Street Institute, a free market think tank

    I always thought of it as (dons sunglasses)....

    ....tilting at windmills.

  • DrZ||

    Geez - put up a few nuclear fission plants and quit covering thousands of acres with panels and windmills.

    What a waste.

  • Whorton||

    Just one suggestion, change federal law so that California is prohibited from purchasing electricity from other Electrical Co-ops that use carbon based (read rational) based generation of electricity.

    If they want to be the environmental hero's of the world, let them do it of their own accord.

  • Otto Didact||

    Wouldn't the SB 100 mandate that "all retail electricity consumed in the state come from renewable sources" preclude them buying power that didn't come from renewable sources? I didn't read the legislation but it would certainly seem to do so.

    Laws such as that are why I say you should "exercise extreme caution when selecting a petard seeing as how it is always possible to find oneself hoisted upon it."

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    Kevin deLeon has his law. Now let him enforce it.

    Oh, wait. He'll be 79 in 2045. His kids will have to enforce it -- and live with the restrictions. Bet Kevin is going to be persona non grata at family reunions.

  • BILKER||

    Given Leon, a self admitted ILLEGAL ALIEN, being what he is he's likely to already be persona non grata.

  • Otto Didact||

    "persona non grata" my rosy red! That probably makes him a CELEBRITY.

  • vek||

    Idiots. When the global temperature rises continue to be VASTLY slower than predicted, and the whole "it's primarily man made" global warming thing collapses... Which will almost certainly happen long before then... How fucking retarded are these people going to seem?

    I do think we're on a general warming trend, but from all my reading from both sides of the debate it seems to be mostly natural, and also like it's going to go A LOT slower than the crazies say. Somehow these idiot leftists always seem to escape blame for their horrible ideas, I hope they don't on this one.

  • Duelles||

    How immeadiatly must the energy be renewed? Natural gas did not come from the Big Bang, ergo it is very likely a renewable resource as are other dubious fossil fuels.

  • BILKER||

    Every one of the elected wienies that voted to require 100% renewable should be forced to use 100% renewable energy in their private and business environs at their own expense. Give them 1 month to get ready. At the end of the one month time cut them out of using ANY energy source not supplied by renewables. Cut them out of the grid. Make them use solar or wind to power their houses. Solar to power their modes of transportation. Sound powered phone systems at work and at home. Utilities such as water or sewage included. In addition they will be required to pay for these changes with their own funds, not getting a long term loan for any. Payment to be made within the one month time period. These terms not only cover the wienies them selves but their immediate family or domestics if any when employed or living at their employers properties.

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