Editorial: Rooftop solar mandate not a good idea

Rooftop solar (r-J pix)

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 7 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 your 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.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

11 comments on “Editorial: Rooftop solar mandate not a good idea

  1. Rincon says:

    Your rebuttal against this law is a bit extreme, e.g., your assertion that manufacturing solar panels generates toxic waste, while assiduously ignoring the fact that coal ash is one of our greatest toxic waste problems. Nevertheless, I tend to agree that unfunded mandates are inherently questionable in almost all cases. A superior way to accomplish a similar goal would be to eliminate the generous subsidies and tax writeoffs that fossil fuels enjoy, and, if necessary, replace a portion of our income tax with a reasonably sized fossil fuel tax. Conservatives though, favor taxing labor over taxing consumption, so the carbon tax may be politically unrealistic.

  2. Steve says:

    Ah, I see.
    Lets try the French “solution” here.

    You must have missed the riots in the news so much you want them here.

  3. Mistrbill says:

    Is anyone here in NV having a problem with Sunrun Solar not living up to their original contract? They guaranteed and designed my system three years ago to produce 252,630 KWH but have only been able to produce 191,981 KWH, 26% less than what was contracted for. They want me to take the loss and continue paying them for sub standard work as well as breech of contract. They REFUSE to upgrade their system. Any one know a good attorney in this field?

  4. Rincon says:

    Apples and oranges, Steve. The French are paying $6.57 per gallon. We pay about a third of that. Nevertheless, as Churchill said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” We in the U.S. grumble quietly about the deficit, but generally vote for those who spend the money and enact the tax cuts that led to it. I don’t expect most of our voters to show any wisdom on the fuel tax issue either, so it won’t happen here in any substantial way.

    Why is reducing income tax in order to raise our fuel taxes wise? Simple: If you want to encourage something, subsidize it. If you want to discourage something, tax it. It appears that we want to discourage hard work by taxing it heavily, and encourage the burning of irreplaceable and limited resources by subsidizing it (or making it less expensive via tax breaks). This is very short sighted, but hey, the baby boomers have screwed upcoming generations in many other ways, why not this too?

  5. Steve says:

    Sure, Rincon. Apple all you like.
    Even our political community knows it’s a dangerous idea.
    France just proved it.

  6. Rincon says:

    I agree that it’s a dangerous idea, just like actually trying to balance the budget. Neither will ever happen in any substantial way, because we’re very comfortable with borrowing money instead of paying our way, and we’re comfortable with taxing the hell out of labor, some other income, and not much else at the federal level.

  7. Steve says:

    The USA has been fully paid up only 2 times since inception.

    Both times were very short periods of time.
    Both were prior to the creation of the FED, prior to any “income” taxes, prior to any such thing as “minimum wages” and were during a time only the very wealthy paid any sort of federal tax at all.

  8. Rincon says:

    Happy 2019 everybody.

  9. Steve says:

    Same to you Rincon.

    2018 was ok until October. Then it just sucked.

  10. […] — Read on 4thst8.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/editorial-rooftop-solar-mandate-not-a-good-idea/ […]

  11. […] Energy Commission recently mandated such efficiency measures for every new home being built in the state starting next year. The […]

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