Filthy Rich Get To Soak In Massive Solar Subsidies – While The Poor Get Nothing

The adage about those who already have getting even more is clearly at work with the virtue-signalling beneficiaries of solar power subsidies.

Sure, you don’t have to be a dotcom billionaire to have a house covered in shiny panels, but the bigger the pad, the bigger the burden on the taxpayers who foot the bill.

At the other end of the income spectrum, the poor rarely own their own homes and rent, meaning that they never get the benefit of solar subsidies; and, likewise, the low-income earners that do own their own modest homes, can never afford the panels that plaster the grand piles of the mega-rich.

No, this is not a rant against acquisitive capitalism. Far from it. The point to be made is that the filthy rich are the ones who can afford to carry their own can. So, why is it that they’re the first to bitch and whine at the merest suggestion that the public purse strings might be tightened and solar subsidies either cut or reduced?

Of course, those like Elon Musk, with skin in the game, can be forgiven for going to war to advance their own commercial interests. However, finding sympathy for billionaire Hollywood actors, is a different matter.

Here’s a couple of pieces on the rampant hypocrisy that underpins welfare for the wealthy.

California’s Solar-Power Welfare State
Wall Street Journal
The Editorial Board
7 February 2022

The dirty little secret about green energy subsidies is that they are welfare for the wealthy. And like any entitlement, they are hard to reform once people get hooked. Witness the revolt by the rich against a California proposal to scale back subsidies for rooftop-solar panels.

At issue is the state’s net-metering program that rebates homeowners with solar panels for the excess power they generate and send to the grid. Utilities compensate solar customers at the retail electricity rate, which can be up to 10 times the wholesale price that other power generators are paid.

Renewables and natural-gas prices have plunged since the mid-2000s. Yet retail rates in California have increased 50% over the last decade as utilities have had to spend more to integrate renewables into the grid and harden power lines. California’s cap-and-trade program and “public purpose programs” like battery subsidies have also raised retail rates.

Wholesale prices don’t differ all that much across the country, but retail rates in California are about 80% higher than the national average and twice as high as in neighboring states. Net-metering is driving rates even higher. Solar customers use the grid to consume and export power. Yet they avoid much of the grid costs, which are shifted to other customers.

Net-metering is highly regressive and becoming unsustainable as more affluent homeowners install solar panels. The bottom 40% of income earners in California account for only about 13% of solar customers. A study by the left-leaning outlet Next 10 last year estimated that this cost shift translates into $230 more for an average annual electric bill.

Even the Sierra Club says in California “the solar industry has matured to a point where a smaller [solar] incentive is appropriate.” Greens worry that skyrocketing retail rates due to net-metering and other green subsidies may discourage lower- and middle-income folks from buying electric cars and appliances.

Rooftop-solar is also making the grid less reliable. The state sometimes generates so much solar power that it must pay other states to take it to stabilize the grid. As wholesale power prices have plunged during the day, natural-gas generators have struggled and shut down. Then there’s less power available at night after the sun goes down.

Liberals say the solution is batteries to store solar power that homeowners generate during the day to use at night. But net-metering subsidies are so generous that they may be a disincentive to buy batteries.

Enter the state Public Utilities Commission. An agency administrative law judge last month proposed scaling back credits for excess solar power sent to the grid and adding a fixed monthly charge averaging $20 to $40 to solar customer bills to cover their grid costs. Battery subsidies would grow. These changes would affect new solar customers and current ones only after 15 years.

Greens support the proposal, but the celebrity class has blown a fuse. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently wrote a New York Times op-ed denouncing it as a “solar tax.” Actor Edward Norton tweeted that it “will destroy the rooftop solar market.” Elon Musk, whose Tesla sells solar panels, calls it “a bizarre anti-environment move.”

After punting a vote on the proposal two weeks ago, the utilities commission president last week said it needs more time to consider revisions. Renewable subsidies were intended to be temporary. But as California shows, once the rich and powerful are hooked, the handouts are hard to take away.
Wall Street Journal

Arnold Schwarzenegger Gets a Sunburn
Real Clear Energy
Benjamin Zycher
2 February 2022

News reports last month about a traffic accident involving former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger noted that he was driving a GMC Yukon, a full-size sport-utility vehicle that decidedly is not among the vehicle choices favored by the environmental Left. Indeed, it is fair to describe it as a civilian approximation of an armored personnel carrier. And good for Arnold: he exercised his fundamental right to make a vehicle choice that serves his circumstances and particular needs. That such choices are a crucial component of individual freedom – to use one’s own resources in ways furthering one’s own wellbeing – is a truth ignored too often in a political system that has grown fond of coercion.

So Arnold’s recent opinion column in opposition to proposals to reform the California subsidies for rooftop solar systems is of significant interest. In a nutshell: those with such rooftop systems (1) receive significant subsidies for the capital costs, (2) receive “net metering” prices vastly higher than wholesale rates for the excess solar electricity that they sell back to the electric utilities, and (3) do not pay the full costs of the conventional system that provides them with electricity as insurance when sunlight conditions are insufficient to power their homes and businesses.

Because the costs of creating and operating the conventional system and of subsidizing those with rooftop systems must be covered, the electricity rates paid by those without such systems must rise. It is primarily the upper-middle class and the wealthy who have such systems; those with lower incomes cannot afford them and/or do not live in housing meeting the physical requirements. Accordingly, it is incontrovertible that the subsidies for rooftop solar systems transfer wealth upward – that is, from the lower- and middle-income classes to upper-middle and wealthy households.

A partial reform of this system, now under consideration at the California Public Utilities Commission, is opposed vehemently by most of the usual suspects, including Arnold. (There are a few exceptions among them.) Arnold claims that a proposed fee of $57 per month for those with rooftop systems – it would cover the increase in grid capital costs that provide insurance (see above) for periods of poor sunlight conditions – is “a solar tax” because consumers without rooftop systems would not pay it. But those consumers already pay the full costs of the conventional system, including the cost of providing the insurance bestowed upon those with rooftop systems. Accordingly, in Arnold’s world, a reduction in a large solar subsidy is “a solar tax.” Does Arnold actually believe such nonsense?

Apparently so, as he goes on to complain that the prices that rooftop solar customers receive for the excess power that they sell back to the utilities would be reduced sharply. He forgets to mention that such power now receives the highest retail price paid to the utility for any power; but because the utility will sell that excess solar power to other customers, it obviously should receive no more than the relevant wholesale price. Would Arnold support even higher “net metering” prices so as to “incentivize” rooftop solar systems even more? The answer presumably is “yes,” but other people would have to cover those costs. What would Arnold say to them?

Nothing, actually. He concedes explicitly that the current system imposes net costs upon lower-income households, but then changes the subject by arguing that making “solar more expensive for everyone does nothing to help our most vulnerable.” The subsidy system, of course, does not make solar power “less expensive” for the state economy writ large, but instead shifts a substantial part of those costs onto the “most vulnerable.” Does Arnold not understand the difference between shifting (and hiding) costs versus reducing them? Apparently, he does not.

Arnold then claims that “California has been hit hard in recent years by the changing climate, with record droughts and catastrophic wildfires.” Wow. The climate certainly is “changing” as a result of both natural and anthropogenic influences. Does he believe instead that anything that happens has been caused by man? In any event, the Palmer Drought Severity Index shows no trend since 1895; if anything, the period since 1970 has been wetter than usual.

In its Fifth Assessment Report, the IPCC argues (page 162) that “confidence is low for a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century.” The number of U.S. wildfires shows no trend since 1895, and global acreage burned has declined over past decades. Does Arnold believe that the California wildfire problem has not been driven by government forest-management practices and the perverse incentives created by electricity rate regulation?

Arnold then argues that the subsidies for rooftop solar systems will help “to slow global warming.” Really? In 2018 greenhouse gas emissions (Table 4) from the California power sector were 33.7 million metric tons, or about one-half of 1 percent of total U.S. emissions of about 6.6 billion tons. If we apply the EPA climate model under assumptions that exaggerate the effects of reductions in GHG emissions, the effect of eliminating all GHG emissions immediately from the entire California power sector – not those merely resulting from the rooftop solar-subsidy system – would be nine ten-thousandths of one degree C by 2100. (The entire Biden net-zero proposal: 0.173 degrees C.) Would someone please ask Arnold what that is worth?

On and on goes Arnold as he avoids the central questions. Has he heard of the massive environmental problems caused by renewable power generally and rooftop solar systems in particular? Just to mention a few: the heavy metal, air, and water pollution created during the production processes for solar panels, and the attendant disposal problems when the panels outlive their useful lives. Does Arnold believe that the production and disposal of the massive batteries that he applauds are “clean?”

Rooftop solar electricity is vastly more expensive than conventional power, and more expensive even than utility-scale solar power and onshore wind power. No amount of propaganda can overcome the cost implications of the unconcentrated nature of sunlight (and wind flows). Average effective solar radiation at the earth’s surface is about 240 watts per square meter. Even if we assume, say, 500 watts per square meter in regions with strong sunlight conditions, the theoretical (Shockley-Queisser) limit on the conversion of photons into electric power is on the order of 30 percent. (In actual practice, the figure is closer to 20 percent.) Accordingly, a square meter of solar receiving capacity under ideal conditions is sufficient to power one or two 75-watt lightbulbs.

Back to Arnold. While governor of California, he signed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, arguing that it begins “a bold new era of environmental protection” and that “We simply must do everything we can in our power to slow down global warming before it is too late.” In reality, the law will do nothing in terms of climate phenomena even as it creates a vast array of new environmental problems; but it has yielded for Californians the fourth-highest average power rates in the lower 48 states.

Does Arnold care about any of this? Or is he more concerned with the virtue-signaling so prevalent in Hollywood? Notwithstanding his endless environmentalist pronouncements while governor, Arnold flew between Sacramento and Los Angeles on a private jet almost daily. In the aforementioned traffic accident, Arnold’s GMC Yukon SUV crushed a Toyota Prius, ironically enough, as well as a small sports car. No one should make light of such adverse events, in particular when injuries result, and even or especially when inflicted upon our political/policy opponents. But Arnold’s ignorance and hypocrisy are difficult to overlook, for reasons summarized well by that noted philosopher and keen observer of the human condition, Dogbert: “You can’t save the earth unless you’re willing to make other people sacrifice.” Truer words were never spoken.
Real Clear Energy

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. California has a problem with being sucked into drama, lies, scripts, and fluff thus getting used and abused over and over again by it’s abusers. Instead of voting for Meg Whitman when they had the chance they voted for the Hollywood actor Arnold thing. Meg Whitman was CEO of eBay at the time, a company that was forged into a sustainable business model that covered the Earth and helped create a whole new life for many people who discovered profitable selling and foraging for bargains and unique meaningful items, etc. In fact I would go so far as to stay it’s business model saved more energy worldwide in creating an efficient system of trade than anything any renewable system ever did. Had she been elected as Governor it would have charted a very strong and stable course for the state that wouldn’t have it going in circles down into a whirlpool as it is now and has been since that election. The state would have been in such better shape.

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