by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
We are constantly told that solar energy is a low-cost energy source. And on a clear day, while the sun is overhead, it is.
But since solar isn’t dispatchable (you can’t ask the sun to produce more when people suddenly require more) or reliable (sometimes it clouds over or rains), it can’t be a low-cost energy source. As Strata Solar explained in its application to build a solar plant on property owned by Gov. Roy Cooper,
Solar is an intermittent energy source, and therefore the maximum dependable capacity is 0 MW [megawatts].
What this means is solar needs another power source — a dispatchable, reliable traditional source — standing by to fill in the many gaps. And guess what? That’s not an efficient use of the traditional source, so it costs more than usual. This is why Brookings found solar and wind are the most expensive ways of reducing emissions.
So we’re told solar is low-cost energy, but even solar’s biggest advocates know that’s not true. It’s entirely dependent upon government support. The solar energy lobby’s fundraising plea acknowledges as much:
Much of the utility-scale solar industry’s success can be attributed to our state’s strong clean energy policies, such as favorable contracts and rates paid to these facilities for the energy and generation capacity they provide.
Carolina Journal’s Dan Way, perhaps the state’s most knowledgeable reporter on solar and other energy resources and state energy policies, wrote this week about the very steep cost of these “strong clean energy policies”:
North Carolina surpassed the $1 billion mark in renewable energy investment tax credits issued in 2018 — three years after the lucrative subsidy program to stimulate solar development expired. Taxpayers have picked up the bill, and could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of more tax credits in coming years.
The key for policymakers and voters is to do the math. It would be wise to remember that consumers and taxpayers are the same people.
Something that doesn’t cost you much more as consumers but costs you a great deal as taxpayers costs you a great deal, period.