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Ron Fink: Energy Efficiency Pact Equals Cost Increases

In 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission, an appointed, not elected regulatory agency, issued a “ruling” to allow the formation of the Tri-County Regional Energy Network to oversee residential energy efficiency. The network consists of Ventura, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and was required to submit a business plan for approval by the CPUC.

The new agency has a substantial budget to implement its goals — all derived from utility fees.

It filed a business plan that says it is a “roadmap for the evolution of public agency leadership to drive the market to increased energy efficiency in residential buildings through strategic intervention and cross-cutting strategies, while also supporting our broader state goals, such as the reduction of greenhouse gases.”

“Specifically, the 3C-REN Business Plan will target moderate-income residents who are homeowners and renters, the large Spanish-speaking communities, and rural areas of the Tri-County Region,” the plan states.

It looks like Big Brother is going to help you.

The goal of this outfit is to “adopt energy and water efficiency related upgrades in targeted residential sectors” and “implement programs that result in trackable energy savings that can accelerate state and local climate goals and result in economic development benefits.”

It intends to start a far-reaching “education program,” and it makes some astonishing statements that should make us wary in its business plan.

For example, it sees that one problem is “sea level rise as a threat to the extensive coastal areas in the region”; another is “limited opportunities for alternative transportation to reduce GHG emissions” in rural areas; and “an inefficient building stock that needs to be upgraded to reduce energy use and increase water conservation.”

All these things are going to cost a lot of money to resolve. Of all of them, trying to mitigate a “sea level rise” is like trying to catch a ghost. Of course, this is on the environmentalists’ agenda so it’s worthy of millions of dollars of ratepayer money to find out that it can’t be solved.

The state goal directs “Californians to increase energy efficiency in all of the state’s existing buildings by 50 percent.” That sounds nice, but the state also required that any modifications must be “cost effective.” The plan says, “This cost-effectiveness calculations, required by the Warren-Alquist Act, result in nearly all (if not all) deep, whole house residential energy efficiency upgrades not meeting cost effectiveness thresholds.”

So, at least someone realized that this dream would be way too expensive even for appointed commissions, urged on by global warming believers, to pay for. They would just have to find another way to make their dreams of an environmental utopia come true.

They did. They concluded that heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, plumbing systems and water heaters have a defined life span, so when they are replaced, they will require new equipment that meets their much higher energy-efficiency standards. Of course, none of the existing systems or stock meets the criterion, so new stuff will have to be designed and built.

Let’s assume that they can reach a 10, 20 or even 30 percent reduction in “energy use.” What will happen next? Keep in mind that it costs just as much to produce and deliver 1 watt of electricity or 1 cubic foot of natural gas as it does for a million.

The cost result to consumers — that’s you and me — will be rate increases to equal the energy saved. The other cost will be for equipment and building upgrades to meet those goals. Not only are they going to require equipment changes, but along with that will be “energy-saving improvements” such as solar systems, new windows, pipes, fixtures and additional insulation.

But the plan has a solution for all of those costs to low- and moderate-income households — they’ll subsidize costs! Of course, that means that they will use ratepayer money to pay for upgrades. Once again, look for an increase in rates to cover expenses.

All the justification for these expensive changes assumes that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate and that the oceans will cover vast urban areas with water if it isn’t implemented immediately. These assumptions are based on data gathered during the past 200 years. Of course, the Earth has been warming/cooling and the seas rising/falling for millions of unmeasured years, but who’s counting?

So, buckle up, folks. The ticket to utopia is going to be expensive, and the “poorly informed masses” can do nothing about it.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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