Government subsidies for the solar industry are going up. (So is the bankruptcy rate in the industry.) It’s becoming more and more clear that solar — at best — is a decent temporary backup — a Plan B or C, if you will — to more traditional fossil fuel sources, is incredibly expensive, and cannot survive without the iron fist of the government shoving it in the faces of taxpayers.
Still, the NCGOPe majority in the General Assembly — pockets overflowing with solar goon cash — continues to find ways to shove this albatross on us. Here are the official stenographers for the NCGOPe with the details of the latest hijinks on Jones Street:
The N.C. House of Representatives released details of energy policy reform legislation Monday that aims to reshape the relationship between traditional utilities and renewable energy providers after a decades-long arranged marriage through the Renewable Ene
rgy Portfolio Standards (REPS) laws passed in 2007. House Bill 589, Balanced Energy Solutions for North Carolina, is being spearheaded by Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland) and Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union).
“House Bill 589 is a major step forward in energy policy to ensure North Carolina remains competitive in the global economy in which we live,” Joseph Kyzer, communications director for Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said in a statement. “This legislation represents agreement among a very diverse group of renewable energy, customer advocate and utility organizations after almost a year of stakeholders negotiations.”
Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) convened an energy stakeholders group in September 2016 to achieve a consensus reform package that mitigated energy costs to customers and introduced a more competitive bidding process to satisfy renewable energy requirements.
“I appreciate the tireless efforts of Reps. Arp and Szoka finding a path forward to revolutionizing North Carolina’s energy policies with the support of power providers and utilities to control costs for customers and encourage a diverse, competitive marketplace that attracts new businesses and jobs into our economy,” said Moore.
The bill would amend various laws related to energy policy, including reform of the State implementation of the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA), the creation of a competitive bidding process for new renewable energy resources, and the enactment of the Distributed Resources Access Act to authorize leasing of third-party owned solar development.
The proposal would require utilities to offer standard contracts to small power production facilities for up to 10-year terms for facilities that have
a capacity up to 1 megawatt. The standard contract for 1 MW facilities would be capped to a total aggregate of 100 MW per public utility.
It would also require that capacity payments be made only when capacity is needed by the utility based on need for that resource, as established by the utility’s statutorily required integrated resource plan, plans which are approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Highlights of the bill include a competitive bidding process for solar developers that allows cost savings for electric customers and provides for favorable siting locations. These changes will reform elements of the existing PURPA rules that regulate contracts between renewable providers and the utilities that are mandated to purchase their energy.
Here’s where it really gets interesting:
House Bill 589 also creates a solar leasing program where energy customers can work with private third parties to install renewable energy features with little or no upfront cost. The bill also reforms purchase agreements between utilities and customers that have renewable energy installations on their homes or businesses. Currently, a utility is required to purchase excess customer-generated energy, from rooftop solar panels for instance, essentially at retail rates.
Under current law, electric public utilities in the state have the exclusive rights to sell electricity in a designated franchise area. Third-party financing models are not available because solar developers are not authorized to sell power back to the consumer unless they are the regulated public utility serving that franchise area.
However, retail customers can own a renewable energy systems for their own primary use and are compensated through bill credits under a net mete
ring rate. H.B. 589 would enact the Distributed Resources Access Act to allow third parties to offer leasing of solar energy facilities in the service area of an offering utility or a municipality that offers electric service and to create a community solar energy program to be implemented by the offering utility.
The bill also includes a study of energy storage and a path for swine and poultry waste-to-energy development and connection to the North Carolina electric grid.
So, you don’t need to be overseen by the Utilities Commission to sell electricity? (*Gee, what could go wrong here?*) And, I see they’ve thrown in a little something — the study — for Jimmy Dixon’s pork pals.
The news is full of stories about these subsidized solar albatrosses collapsing under their own weight
And there is also lots of good independent information about what a waste solar energy truly is. Check out this piece, for example, from the Mises Institute:
Citing U.S. Department of Energy data, the New York Times recently reported that the solar industry employs far more Americans than wind or coal: 374,000 in solar versus 100,000 in wind and 160,000 in coal mining and coal-fired power generation. Only the natural gas sector employs more people: 398,000 workers in gas production, electricity generation, home heating and petrochemicals.
This is supposed to be a good thing, according to the Times. It shows how important solar power has become in taking people out of unemployment lines and giving them productive jobs, the paper suggests.
Indeed, the article notes, California had the highest rate of solar power jobs per capita in 2016, thanks to its “robust renewable energy standards and installation incentives” (ie, mandates and subsidies).
In reality, it’s not a good thing at all, and certainly not a positive trend. In fact, as Climate Depot and the Washington Examiner point out — citing an American Enterprise Institute study — the job numbers actually underscore how wasteful, inefficient and unproductive solar power actually is.
That is glaringly obvious when you look at the amounts of energy produced per sector. (This tally does not include electricity generated by nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal power plants.)
- 398,000 natural gas workers = 33.8% of all electricity generated in the United States in 2016
- 160,000 coal employees = 30.4 % of total electricity
- 100,000 wind employees = 5.6% of total electricity
- 374,000 solar workers = 0.9% of total electricity
It’s even more glaring when you look at the amount of electricity generated per worker. Coal generated an incredible 7,745 megawatt-hours of e
lectricity per worker; natural gas 3,812 MWH per worker; wind a measly 836 MWH for every employee; and solar an abysmal 98 MWH per worker.
In other words, producing the same amount of electricity requires one coal worker, two natural gas workers — 12 wind industry employees or 79 solar workers.