California Energy Lessons Waiting To Be Learned

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California’s headlong rush toward an all-EV, zero-carbon-power-grid Camelot shows no signs of abating. It’s as if there are no possible alternatives. Of course, there are, but the signs can be hard to read while traveling at full speed.

As so many of the planet’s 8 billion people know, because California desperately promotes its position as the world’s green energy leader, all new-car sales beginning in 2035 have to be of the zero-emission variety. By the end of 2045, every watt of electricity consumed in the state must be generated from renewable resources, primarily wind and sun.

Mandates are one thing, but the real world is another. The latter says that California is unlikely to meet its targets unless the future is one of blackouts and unaffordable electricity costs, because the demand for power is going to far outstrip the supply. Only in the most extreme, unlikely, almost-impossible scenario will the additions of renewable sources be able to make up for the losses of power as natural gas and nuclear plants are taken offline.

While California officials are averting their eyes to this, administrations elsewhere are confronting the reality of renewables.

Sweden, for instance, is moving “forward with plans to build new nuclear plants in a country that voted 40 years ago to phase out atomic power,” Reuters reports. Apparently, this is the best way for the Swedes to meet an expected doubling of electricity demand in 2040 and still reach net-zero emissions five years later. Reuters characterizes the decision as a victory for “​​the right-wing government,” but it’s actually a win for modernity. Left-wingers need to turn on the lights, too.

Other nations are also struggling with their green dreams.

“The hard truth is this: the energy transition isn’t,” writes energy author Robert Bryce.

“Despite rapid growth in wind and solar,” he continues, “those two forms of energy are not even keeping pace with the growth in hydrocarbons. That’s true both globally and in the U.S.”

Sacramento is betting every farm in the Central Valley that offshore wind will get the state beyond hydrocarbons. But there are zero windmills producing zero watts of power off of California’s coast, and little reason to believe that enough can be sited by 2045 to meet needs.

Great Britain has similar ambitions with offshore wind. The Telegraph calls it “the poster child of” the country’s “push into green energy … championed by politicians as a controversy-free alternative to onshore wind and solar farms.”

Despite offshore wind’s exalted status, the Telegraph reports that “​​a string of major projects are under threat from spiraling costs, sclerotic planning rules and shrinking subsidies. Industry sources warn that it risks tilting the economics into negative territory.”

And they didn’t see this coming?

A couple of years ago, the International Energy Agency published “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” which, in its own words,  “sets  out  clear  milestones [… for]when, to transform the global economy from  one  dominated  by  fossil  fuels  into  one  powered  predominantly  by  renewable energy like  solar and wind.”

Last month, the Energy Policy Research Foundation dropped a “forensic analysis” and an economic assessment of the IEA report. It found “the IEA’s assumptions are unrealistic, internally inconsistent, and often support the case for increased hydrocarbon fuel production.”

“The net zero path is anything but smooth, imposing enormous costs and risks on the economies of the West,” the report concluded.

Despite the demonstrable downside of renewables, governments continue to pour taxpayers money into the green hole. The IEA’s most recent data shows that $1.34 trillion has been “allocated by governments for clean energy investment support since 2020.” From 2021 to 2023, the spending – which the IEA calls “investment” – increased by 25 percent.

Someone in Sacramento needs to look beyond the state lines and make sense of what’s happening with others’ renewable-energy schemes. Of course, that would be the easy part. The harder task will be to convince so-far-uncompromising lawmakers to pull back on the state’s ambitious targets. No one wants to admit they were wrong, especially those dedicated to the California Way.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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