Noon: Brexit’s energy lesson for California

Marita Noon
On Twitter @EnergyRabbit
Marita Noon

Environmental groups are in charge of energy policy as this quote from The Associated Press’ June 21 reporting about the announced closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant makes clear: “California’s largest utility and environmental groups announced a deal Tuesday to shutter the last nuclear power plant in the state.”

California has a goal of generating half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and environmental groups are calling for the state officials to replace Diablo’s generating capacity with “renewable power sources.”

Bloomberg Intelligence analysts’ research concluded that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. “would need 10,500 megawatts of new solar installations to replace all of Diablo Canyon’s output” and that, without including potential costs of new transmission lines or back-up resources for solar, will cost $15 billion — though actual costs “could be lower because the company expects to compensate for lower demand and replace only part of the production.” The “lower demand” is expected to come from “energy efficiencies.”

This announcement came while California was experiencing blackouts due to “a record demand for energy” and because “there just aren’t enough gas pipelines for what’s needed,” according to CNN Money.

California’s Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s power grid, therefore, has warned that there may be “outages for as many as 14 summer days.”

As coal-fueled electricity has been outlawed in California, and environmental groups have pushed to close nuclear power plants, and routinely block any new proposed natural gas pipelines, black outs will become more frequent.

This dilemma forces “energy efficiency” to play a big role in the environmental groups’ decrees — which parallels the European Union’s policies that were a part of Britain’s “exit” decision, known as “Brexit.”

In 2014, the EU, in the name of energy efficiency, sparked public outcry in Britain when it banned powerful vacuum cleaners with motors above 1600 watts. Despite that, it then proposed to “ban high powered kettles and toasters” to reduce energy consumption.

When the EU’s high-powered toaster/tea-kettle ban was announced, it became “a lightning rod for public anger at perceived meddling by Brussels” — which was seen as “intruding too much into citizens’ daily lives.” The European overreach became such ammunition in Britain’s Brexit referendum, that Brussels stalled the ban until after the election.

It is reported that top of the list for “leave” voters were “EU Rules and Regulations.” Matthew Elliot, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign said: “If we vote remain we will be powerless to prevent an avalanche of EU regulations that Brussels is delaying until after the referendum.”

Specifically addressing the ban, Elliot said: “The EU now interferes with so many aspects of our lives, from our breakfast to our borders.” David Coburn, a UK Independence party member of the European Parliament from Scotland, who recently bought a new toaster and tea kettle grumbled: “I think I must have bought a euro-toaster, I have to put bread in it five times and it’s still pale and pasty. Perhaps it’s powered by windmills.”

While energy efficiency directives banning Keurig coffee makers would be more likely to draw similar ridicule from Californians, there is a lesson to be learned from the Brexit decision: too much regulation results in referendums to overturn them. It is widely believed that, with Brexit and new leadership, many of the EU’s environmental regulations, including the Paris Climate Agreement, will be adjusted or abandoned.

More and more Americans are reaching the same conclusion as our British cousins about the overreach of rules and regulations. What we want is to let the free market reign, not diktats from unelected bureaucrats and their friends in various environmental groups.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy. She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy — which expands on the content of her weekly column.