Is an overreliance on renewables a bad economic move for California? – The San Diego Union-Tribune

California’s power grid operator called for energy conservation recently as a heat wave continues throughout the state.

The California Independent System Operator issued a Flex Alert for June 17 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., urging people to set their thermostats to 78 degrees or higher and avoid using washers, dishwashers and other major appliances, said The Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board argues federal tax credits and state policies that favor renewables like solar and wind have proven unable to meet demand in California and Texas.

Critics argue the effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions will hurt low- and middle-income Californians most because of higher energy costs, and estimates for the cost to businesses range into the billions of dollars when there are blackouts.

Q: Is an overreliance on renewables a bad economic move for California?

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health

NO: Renewables are a must if we are going to help reduce greenhouse gasses, and California is correct in moving in this direction. However, I’m a moderate in most things. I recommend a well-thought-out approach that addresses costs, taxes, and both the positive and negative impacts on society and the environment. It would be nice to see this type of strategic planning process followed, versus the knee-jerk legislation we see too often in California.

Norm Miller, University of San Diego

NO: It’s easy to blame the new energy kids on the block, when the real problem is a need for more diversity in energy production, a more resilient grid, more large-scale batteries and other forms of storing energy while we continue to encourage innovation and alternatives, i.e. molten salt reactors, green hydrogen, sea-based PV cells, vertical wind turbines that don’t need to be shut down when winds are high, and wave-based generators that work as long as we have tides and winds, among the examples worth considering.

Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions

YES: Renewables are only as good as the wind blows and the sun shines, so there must be sufficient backup storage to accommodate surges in demand. Without this battery storage, renewables must rely on conventional energy as a backup, which is costly to maintain and to operate, during such surges. Because conventional energy sources, like natural gas, continue to be less expensive, less dense, more reliable, and more scalable, renewable energy technologies will need to improve at a more rapid pace to reach economies of scale.

David Ely, San Diego State University

NO: An economy’s transition to renewable energy will not be smooth due to expensive investments, evolving technologies, and the risk of shortages in early stages of the transition. Natural gas would be an affordable and stable source of energy through the medium term and would allow the state to experience more rapid growth in the near term. But hopefully, California’s economy will be better positioned for long-term growth once the transition to renewables is achieved.

Ray Major, SANDAG

YES: An overreliance on any commodity is bad because any disruption in the creation, distribution, or demand for that commodity cannot be easily mitigated with a substitute. Years of mismanagement in California has created a situation where the electrical grid is so fragile it cannot handle the current demand for electricity, and consumers now regularly face forced power outages. Fix the distribution problem before mandating additional consumer demands be placed on a failing infrastructure system.

Reginald Jones, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation

Not participating this week.

Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University

NO: The shift toward renewables ultimately will reduce future economic harms, such as the risk from sea-level rise, drought and fire damage. Until adequate battery and storage capacity is developed, consumers and companies face energy disruptions when solar and wind power are not available. Californians must be willing to sacrifice a dependence on continuous and reliable energy in exchange for longer run benefits. How much they value this trade-off will soon be tested.

Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research

YES: California’s blackouts result from mismatching electric supply with expected higher demand during summer months. The state, which formerly produced enough electricity for fully anticipated hot weather conditions, has less available with wind and solar energy sources. Reliance on renewables, while rejecting natural gas and nuclear power, leaves California with some of the nation’s highest energy prices. Overreliance on renewables directly results in less electricity being available when the state most needs it causing blackouts.

Phil Blair, Manpower

YES: Certainly for the foreseeable future. We are not yet at a time when we can depend solely on renewable hydraulic dams (drought has caused decreased production), solar energy (not productive when the sun goes down) and wind (it does both stop blowing or blowing too hard). Until we can store energy produced during the productive times of renewable energy we need to keep our backup production from natural gas available when needed. Another option is still nuclear energy using the newest technology to keep it safe and cost-effective.

Gary London, London Moeder Advisors

YES: Whatever it takes to spur innovation in energy production is a laudable long-term economic goal. Renewable energy, conservation, nuclear, and someday, fusion, are all candidate options that ought to be encouraged for safety, security and climate preservation reasons. The problem is, what do we do along the way to a better energy future? We cannot disrupt energy delivery or cause unnecessary inequities. But we also cannot allow vestigial energy producers to slow-walk the solutions.

Alan Gin, University of San Diego

NO: It is the power companies themselves who are shifting to producing energy from renewable sources due to market forces. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that wind and solar will make up 70 percent of the new power plant capacity built in 2021 because it is cheaper to produce through those sources. California will be helped by an extra 3,500 megawatts of capacity this year, of which 2,000 is battery storage, according to the AP.

Bob Rauch, R.A. Rauch & Associates

YES: Electrification would get rid of natural gas in buildings, electrify transportation networks and require the electricity grid to run solely on renewables. Energy costs would soar and rates would go higher, stressing the limits of low-middle income San Diegans. California electricity costs are 47 percent higher than the national average and we currently generate half our electricity from solar during summer afternoons. Evenings generate nothing, nuclear facilities are going away and rolling blackouts are coming.

Austin Neudecker, Weave Growth

NO: Climate change not only presents a long-term existential crisis but will cause trillions of dollars in impact over the next few decades. Transitioning away from fossil fuels has to be the goal. The problem is not renewables, but achieving the right mix of power generation (not an overreliance on any one). As a transition, new nuclear technology is the answer to generating a reliable base, is incredibly safe and creates a fraction of the waste.

James Hamilton, UC San Diego

YES: California wants to use electricity for everything from powering our cars to heating our homes. And we’re trying to do it without nuclear or natural gas, whose clean efficiency was the main factor that brought America’s carbon emissions down since 2007. Add this to a litigious system that makes the utilities afraid to use transmission lines, and the inescapable result is that businesses and consumers cannot rely on the lights staying on. This will be very costly.

Have an idea for an EconoMeter question? Email me at phillip.molnar@sduniontribune.com.

Follow me on Twitter: @PhillipMolnar