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Energy News Viewpoints

Viewpoint: Solar power, not overregulation, is part of our future

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David T. StevensonBy David T. Stevenson

A hearing was held May 10 in Dover to hear opinions on legislation to expand and extend a mandate for more wind and solar power.  We anticipate efforts to go from 25% of regional generating capacity by 2025 to at least 30% by 2030, and perhaps higher.  The legislation will also attempt to essentially eliminate a price cap on electric consumer bills as a PSC cost cap regulation finalized in 2018 will most certainly lead to a freeze of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The carve-out for solar will likely be increased, and community solar regulations may be changed.

This is not needed for a number of reasons.

The RPS is an anachronism with 90% of the new wind and solar built nationally last year outside of RPS mandates, because utility scale wind and solar is now competitive with conventional power sources. Reliability issues may arise if wind and solar generation exceeds 30% of regional generating capacity, or 5% of local feeder line capacity. The regional grid system has adequate generation reserve without new wind and solar capacity. Delaware already receives 95% of its electricity from zero or low carbon emission sources, such as renewables, hydro, nuclear and natural gas.

An expanded RPS is not a jobs program, as some suggest, as more jobs are destroyed by higher electric rates than are created by a small number of solar installers, and 90% of our RPS is being met by out-of-state projects that shift jobs to other states, or natural gas powered fuel cells.

The RPS is a transfer of wealth from lower-income families to higher-income families, now costing all Delmarva Power residential customers an average of $125 a year (three times a promised price cap), and an expanded program could add another $85 a year. In real life only about 3% of electric customers voluntarily pay any premium for wind and solar power when given a choice. The RPS is an expensive way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions costing 30 times as much as a current Delaware emission allowance. In contrast, natural gas, coal, and oil- fired power plants in Delaware supply most of our electricity with no state subsidies.

The path to more renewable power in Delaware is through competitive, market-driven, utility scale solar farms. For direct residential and commercial participation in low-cost solar, obstacles need to be cleared to building community solar farms. Community solar legislation would remove the requirements that the entire project be subscribed to start building, that all customers must be on a single feeder line, and that the allowed system size must be increased from 2 megawatts to 5 megawatts.

An American Lung Association (ALA) report has been quoted by RPS advocates that gives Kent and Sussex Counties a “D,” and New Castle County an “F” grade for air quality using its self-created, exaggerated standard. The ALA standard basically turns a 99% positive rating into an “F.” The truth is all three counties meet rigorous Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards, including updated standards issues by the Obama Administration, for six of seven monitored pollutants. Only New Castle County missed the seventh standard for ozone by a small margin. EPA modeling indicates New Castle County will meet the ozone standard by 2022 as cleaner motor vehicles replace older, dirtier vehicles.

It is time to end the RPS, not to expand it!

David T. Stevenson is policy director for the Caesar Rodney Institute. He can be reached at DavidStevenson@CaesarRodney.org

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