California Utilities Forced to Explore Solar Power Options

In an earlier article, we talked about how California was taking a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Closure of the San Onofre nuclear facility has created an energy void within the state. And utilities are scrambling to fill in the gap with extra capacity.

SDG&E was about to move forward with a natural gas plant in Carlsbad.

Well, we’re happy to announce that those plans have temporarily been put on hold.

According to state law, California utilities are required to consider clean energy solutions before exploring fossil fuel-based alternatives. And a judge has recently ordered SDG&E to exhaust its solar and wind options before it can receive approval for its proposed Carlsbad natural gas facility.

And we couldn’t be happier.

You should be happy too.

If approved, this plant will end up costing customers $2.6 billion – not to mention untold tons of CO2.

Are Solar Power Options Really a Better Choice?

The law doesn’t require SDG&E to invest in solar. This ruling simply means the utility company should explore solar more carefully.

But when you run the numbers, solar energy always comes out on top:

  • PV farms are easier to build and maintain than natural gas facilities. There are fewer moving parts involved.
  • Solar relies on sunshine – an infinitely renewable and free energy source. Fossil fuel-based power plants require continuous infusions of expensive oil, gas, and coal.
  • Solar doesn’t pollute. This means fewer long-term medical complications and zero cleanup costs from oil spills, reactor meltdowns, and explosions.

Is This a Defeat for California Utilities?

Utilities probably view this setback as a defeat. According to David Knox of NRG (SDG&E’s partner in the natural gas deal),

The Carlsbad Energy Center remains the only viable approach to having the appropriate flexible (power generating) capacity online when needed… We remain optimistic that the CPUC will approve our contract with SDG&E.

But solar doesn’t have to be a threat.

Utility companies that fully embrace green power will have much happier customers – and far fewer costs. As mentioned in a previous article, solar is a disruptive technology that doesn’t necessarily have to disrupt. And we hope that power providers throughout the state adopt the right approach moving forward.

Fortunately, your own energy bill doesn’t have to depend on what utilities do or don’t do. By installing solar panels on your rooftop today, you can essentially opt out of the grid and create your own clean and free electricity.