By Thomas Mitchell
Now that California’s Energy Commission has approved mandatory efficiency standards for all homes built in the state after Jan. 1, 2020, including the requirement that rooftop solar panels be used, a self-styled environmental group is calling on every state to require solar panels on new homes.Environment America Research & Policy Center says the requirement would save homeowners money and clean up the environment.
The California Energy Commission predicts that its new efficiency measures will mean new homes will use seven percent less energy, but when the solar generation is factored in the home will use about 53 percent less electricity from the grid. So the bulk of the “savings” will come from the solar panels.
The commission calculates that the new standards will add about $9,500 to the cost of a new home but will save $19,000 in energy and maintenance costs over the next 30 years.
This pays no heed to the fact a 30-year mortgage payout is approximately double a home’s sticker price. So that $9,500 is really an outlay of, right you are, $19,000. And that’s before you take into consideration that solar panels last no more than 20 to 25 years and will have to be sent to the landfill at the homeowner’s expense before the mortgage is paid off.
California, like Nevada, has a net metering program. Every kilowatt-hour the homeowner uploads to the grid nets a penny-per-penny credit for power used from the grid. If that were to go away, as it almost did in Nevada, the savings quickly turn into a net loss on the return on investment.
Environment America estimates that a rooftop solar panel requirement could increase Nevada’s solar capacity from the current 2,658 megawatts to 4,111 megawatts by 2045 and reduce the state’s carbon output by 8.4 percent — enough to offset a couple of Chinese coal-fired generators.
Of course, none of this takes into account the potential breakthroughs in cheaper technology such as fuel cells.
Nor does it recognize that solar panels must be backed up by fossil fuel-burning generators when the sun doesn’t shine and these idling plants can actually increase the carbon output. Nor does anyone mention the tons of toxic waste material left behind by the manufacture of solar panels.
If the monopoly power company, which the voters said in November will remain a monopoly, is essentially having to “buy” power from homeowners at the retail rate, this is bound to lead to rate hikes.
The voters also decided in November that Nevada must increase its renewable power portfolio to 50 percent by 2030. If voters again approve the requirement in two years, Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore estimates an average Nevada family would see their utility bills rise by about $1,000 annually. Costs to the gross domestic product could actually be much more because higher energy costs mean a higher cost of doing business across the economy that get passed on to consumers. The solar panel mandate would surely exacerbate the problem. Let’s pray our lawmakers don’t embrace this latest California boondoggle.
Thomas Mitchell is a former newspaper editor who now writes conservative/libertarian columns for weekly papers in Nevada. You may email Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.