GOP Chairman: California Solar Panel Mandate A Con Job

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The California GOP chairman lambasted the state’s incoming solar panel mandate during a Fox News interview, the latest criticism of the unprecedented new rule.

Jim Brulte, the California Republican Party chairman, took his state’s new renewable energy requirements to task during a Monday interview on the Fox Business Network. The party leader agreed with host Ashley Webster that the mandate is a “con job” given that the analysis used to justify it was based largely off biased data.

“California has taken [former governor] Arnold Schwarzenegger’s very rational environmental programs and taken them to illogical extremes,” Brulte began. “This analyst says that it will actually save homeowners money if we require rooftop solar on new homes. Well, if it will save money then homeowners would do it on the natural. In my area, about 40 percent of the homeowners actually do buy rooftop solar, but it will cost money. Government never gets it right on the cost.”

The exchange was in regard to the California Energy Commission’s decision in May to force every residential home to install solar panels. The new regulation will go into effect in January 2020 and apply to all newly built homes and low-rise apartment buildings. Some exceptions will be given to houses located in shaded areas and residents who are already involved in a renewable energy program. The sweeping mandate is the first of its kind in the U.S.

State regulators have taken heat over the data used to justify the mandate. The California Energy Commission argued solar panels would save residents money on energy bills, but critics counter that they relied on a biased study and lowballed the costs of solar panels. (RELATED: California ‘Cooked The Books’ To Justify Solar Panel Mandate)

More specifically, the commission depended on an analysis from Energy and Environmental Economics Inc., a consultancy firm that openly supported the very mandate they were studying.

Regulators determined that the price of solar panel installation would be quite cheap — claiming the cost was $2.93 a watt in 2016 and would later drop to 17 percent by 2020. However, a separate study by a Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory found that the average cost of panels to be $4.50 a watt for the 2- to 4-kilowatt systems the incoming policy requires, resulting in thousands more in expenditures. The DOE lab also predicted a much slower rate of price decreases for solar panels than what regulators suggested.

Additionally, the commission’s analysis rests largely on the assumption that California’s solar subsidy program will continue unchanged. Residents currently benefit a great deal from the state’s net metering policy, which credits panel owners for the power they send back to the grid. However, like many other states across the country, California will soon consider reforms to its net metering policy. Should it roll back these subsidies, the cost of owning a solar panel will increase.

“Though the solar mandate is unlikely to deliver huge savings to consumers, it certainly will raise the price of new and old homes,” Steven Sexton, an assistant professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. “Sacramento politicians accuse the Trump administration of ignoring science and forgoing expert, independent review in pursuing its environmental and energy agenda. They should look in the mirror.”

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