California’s new solar roof mandate will make housing more expensive, increase electricity prices, and transfer wealth upwards.
What it won’t do is significantly reduce carbon emissions.
The deployment of solar has been the main driver of high and rising electricity prices in California, which currently produces more solar energy than it can use.
“We already have some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and this will only be exacerbated by this mandate,” UC-Berkeley economist Lucas Davis said. “As more and more rooftop solar gets installed, that pushes the cost onto all the non-solar customers.”
From 2011 to 2017, California’s electricity rates increased five times more than they did in the rest of the U.S.
In recent years, California has had to increasingly dump excess solar electricity on neighboring states and block (“curtail”) the electricity coming from solar farms in order to prevent damage to the electrical grid and/or high economic losses.
The March curtailment record was exceptional for how much of the curtailment came from local congestion — a problem that will the new law will likely worsen.
California regulators say a solar roof will add $9,500 in new costs but the average price of a solar roof in California is $19,380.
California is in the midst of the worst housing and homelessness crisis since the Great Depression.
California has the second-most-expensive homes in the nation after Hawaii, and the third-worst state homeownership rate for millennials.
At the current rate California is adding homes, it would take over 100 years of solar roof-building to replace just the clean energy produced by the state’s two nuclear plants.
That calculation assumes the additional costs don’t slow down homebuilding, which they could.
And during that 100 years, all of the solar panels would need to be replaced at least three times, given the degradation of panels.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) approved the regulation with little public debate or discussion, prompting criticism from one of the state’s top energy economists.
“I just became aware … of the proposal,” wrote UC-Berkeley economist Severin Borenstein in an email to CEC Chairman Robert Weisenmiller. “This would be a very expensive way to expand renewables.”
New Solar Will Increase Housing and Electricity Prices
California currently produces 16 percent of its electricity from solar.
Five percent of the state’s electricity comes from solar roofs and 11 percent comes from solar farms — and solar roofs are twice as expensive as solar farms.
California’s top energy economists say the main driver of higher electricity prices is the state’s heavy deployment of solar and other renewables.
“The story of how California’s electric system got to its current state is a long and gory one,” UC Berkeley economist