Guest Post: Maryland and Virginia Must Kibosh “Green” Pipe Dreams

The following represents the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Red Maryland or its editors. 

By Ross Marchand

Consumers in Maryland and Virginia are accustomed to feeling sticker shock from all sorts of items. And prices are set to sky-rocket even further, as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) set their sights on “100 percent renewable energy” targets within three decades. If policymakers get their way, paying the utilities and filling up cars will become painfully expensive for millions of struggling Americans. Leaders across the region should offer their constituents a future free of bank-breaking mandates

One of the best things about Maryland and Virginia is that you can find immigrants from pretty much anywhere, including Somalia, Iraq, and of course, the People’s Republic of California. The fractious political entity of California boasts some of the highest electricity prices in the country, with bills 40 percent higher than the U.S. average. This is not a mere coincidence. This is the result of an active campaign to cripple energy markets state-wide with onerous “green” mandates.

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Evidently, few staff members from either the Hogan or Northam administration have taken time to listen to electricity market horror stories from Californian “refugees” living in their states. But make no mistake: mandating solar panels and wind turbines is a recipe for sky-high prices and dysfunctional utilities. California is home to some of the most aggressive “renewable” portfolio mandates in the world and requires that electricity sellers produce an increasing percentage of their product from “green” sources over time (60 percent by 2030).

University of California Berkeley economist James Bushnell describes the devastating impact of these misguided policies, noting, “Utilities and other retailers have to pay high market prices for new renewables instead of being able to ‘buy low’ on the wholesale market. Because all retailers face the same regulation, they pass these costs on to end users.” In other words, kneecapping the flexibility of providers and compromising their ability to provide low-cost energy leads to…higher prices on consumers.

Under California’s dysfunctional model, utilities still buy non-“renewable” energy sources such as natural gas. But instead of using low-cost sources to power homes and save consumers money, power companies use these sources as a backstop when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) notes forthrightly that this arrangement is bad for consumers. In official reports, the CPUC admits that, since ordinary energy sources must be used infrequently to plug in the gaps created by renewable energy sources, “Peaking capacity generally costs more per kWh because it is used in only a few peak hours per year and thus capital costs are spread over fewer hours.” Under backward “renewables” mandates, consumers must pay more for less.

Yet the green zealots march on, determined to save the environment from the evils of, say, natural gas (which emits significantly less carbon than coal). What these crusaders don’t normally mention is the heavy environmental toll brought on by “renewable” disposal. Solar panels have been known to leach lead and other toxins into local ecosystems, wreaking havoc on communities nearby as well as plant and animal life. Yet millions of tons of solar panels are set to be landfilled in the coming decades, with America adding to the global haul of 78 million tons of solar waste by 2050. San Jose State University scholar Dustin Mulvaney notes, “Communities and counties that have waste management challenges are going bananas with the idea that they have to maybe landfill these things. They don’t decompose or even stack well.”

Wind turbines don’t fare much better and are pretty much unrecyclable. Scholars and energy producers have no idea how they’ll safely and properly dispose of these behemoths without putting the environment and local communities at risk. But one thing’s for sure: costs will continue to climb, and California’s electricity prices may look like a bargain in two decades once all the hidden costs of “renewables” are taken into account.

Maryland and Virginia can avoid this dismal future and keep energy costs low for the millions of households across the two states. The region can certainly do without more sticker shock.

Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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