|Dan Walters: Going green will cost California more green|
|In The News|
|Tuesday, 21 February 2012 09:44|
Published: Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
The state of California has made a full-blown commitment to reducing reliance on fossil-fuel energy and other limited resources.
Utilities are required to use solar, wind and geothermal sources for a third of their electricity supply by 2020, while owners of homes and businesses are being urged to install solar panels.
The state is mandating that automakers dramatically ramp up sales of battery-powered and other low-emission cars. It is imposing new cap-and-trade emission controls on business with hefty fees.
Essentially, the state is trying to force Californiainto an entirely new economic structure, claiming, in Gov. Jerry Brown's words, that "California is positioned perfectly to reap the economic benefits that will inevitably flow."
But what of the costs?
Those cap-and-trade fees will add tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars in costs to Californiabusiness. There's a feeding frenzy beginning in the Capitol over how to spend the windfall, although the Legislature's budget analyst warns that the legal options are limited.
The state's three largest utilities recently filed policy papers with the state Energy Commissionabout the impact of green conversion on consumers' power rates that are already among the nation's highest.
Pacific Gas and Electric said it has "overarching concerns" about conversion because it "contains very little information on the actual cost impact on customers and numerous – and sometimes overlapping – public policies regarding power supply and whether customers actually need the volume of power that utilities would be required to procure under these numerous mandates. We should ensure that our efforts to transition to an ever-cleaner energy supply do not saddle customers with ever-higher costs for decades to come."
Another, San Diego Gas and Electric, is going further. Its new general rate filing would impose a "network use charge" on those with solar systems to maintain the distribution grid.
Or to put it briefly, the utility wants those who use less of its power to pay more for system upkeep, which seems counterintuitive, but is one of the financial consequences of going green, and not the only one.
And how about all of those battery- and hybrid-powered cars? Automotive fuel consumption has been declining in California for decades, vis-à-vis vehicular mileage, as cars have become more fuel-efficient – and that trend would accelerate under the state's new clean car rules.
But high-mileage cars have just as much impact on pavement and congestion as gas-guzzlers, and fuel tax revenues have flattened, leaving California with the nation's most congested and second roughest roads.
Going green may sound good, but like all other public policies, has unintended consequences that we ignore at our peril.