It's not easy being green.
~ Kermit the Frog
So when we last checked in on Manhattan Beach’s Green Revolution and its two principal advocates, Mayor Nancy Hersman and Councilmember Hildy Stern, both of whom gave impassioned arguments back in May about the need for Manhattan Beach to help save the planet from global climate change (see Green New Deal Comes to Manhattan Beach), the City Council passed a resolution on a 4-1 vote (Suzanne Hadley being the lone dissenter) that our municipal facilities would immediately start meeting their electricity needs from 100% green, renewable energy generators, courtesy of the Clean Power Alliance (or CPA), a community choice energy program.
Keep in mind, as we pointed out in our previous post, the city accounts were already at 50% renewable (which is also the default rate for our city residents’ home energy bills).
Of course, increasing the city’s green energy usage to 100% is not without cost.
You might recall from the May 21 council meeting (or, if you don’t recall, you can view it here, starting about the 1 hr, 20 min mark) that, when the actual cost of converting to 100% green energy was discussed, the number that was originally bandied about was $70,000 per year. Yet we ended up budgeting for $100,000/year.
Now, suddenly, things aren't looking so good on the green scene.
For instance, the City of Manhattan Beach web site, which, for a while after the May vote was promoting its 100% green city facilities, no long makes any mention of that fact. Why?
Because it wouldn’t be true as a number of city energy accounts are no longer on the 100% renewable plan.
How did that happen, given the Council’s previous vote?
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to saving the planet, namely, reality.
Reality - What a concept.
~ Mork (Robin Williams)
Going back to that May Council session, Ms Hersman, in her messianic zeal over climate change, actually questioned whether rising electricity rates in the future was even a concern. As she said at the time, "I'm not sure where that assumption comes from that rates are just going to go up and up and up."
After a brief tutorial from Napolitano on how rates reflect not only energy production but rising salaries and ancillary costs, she continued that that's not necessarily a negative just because it "might" happen in the future.
Well, when you deny the basic rules of economics, reality has a way of creeping up on you and then slapping you across the face.
Almost as if on cue, CPA adopted new rates in June which are substantially higher than expected for some of the City’s electricity accounts. Who could have seen that coming?
So now the current estimated total annual cost increase for our 100% green folly is $106,116 (and climbing).
Looking at it another way, California doesn’t require 100% green energy until the year 2045 and CA is an extremely liberal state (only Hawaii has a similar requirement in place). Yet that 2045 deadline was not good enough for our Council's environmental warriors so they advocated that we exceed that timeline by 26 years.
During those 26 years, Manhattan Beach will incur additional energy costs of roughly $2.75 million total – and that assumes rates don’t go up a dime between now and then.
And let's not forget that this is $2.75 million that is being paid out to a 3rd party energy supplier for the exact same energy needs we were paying for before we switched over to to 100% green energy. So there's no new energy being supplied to Manhattan Beach, just the same amount as before only way more costly.
The benefit to Manhattan Beach and its residents? Nothing, except the feel-good vibe that one derives from believing you’re helping to save the planet - with our city’s revenue dollars, of course.
Everyone in Manhattan Beach can agree that we all want clean streets, clean beaches, safe neighborhoods, good schools and prudent fiscal management of the city's finances.
But spending scarce city resources on issues like global climate change that clearly fall outside those local concerns is another matter.
Sure, most local residents, including yours truly, would love to believe that simply switching to renewable energy for your city’s electricity needs will mitigate climate change and make us richer and sexier to boot. The reality is far more complicated and far less promising.
The worst thing you can do, in our opinion, is to make local policy decisions based on an incomplete or erroneous understanding of the benefits versus the costs. And when those benefits to our community are more psychological than real and come with significant real (and rising) costs, then a decision to incur those costs should be scrutinized very carefully and skeptically.
That was not done here with the May Council vote and now the City is scrambling to mitigate the ‘unanticipated’ higher costs of that decision, which is why the issue will once again be before the Council at next week's August 6 meeting.