The End of Power Companies

Solar is cheaper than ever. Retail power is more expensive than ever. You see where we’re going with this.

Full disclosure: this article was written in California’s Coachella Valley, a sun-baked slice of the Sonoran Desert which receives approximately 75 billion hours of sun per year.

As the world’s climate screams towards weird Ghostbusters II dialogue territory, it’s well past the time for moderate action. It’s substantially too late for dramatic action. At this moment, the world is fashionably late for absolutely insane, would-otherwise-have-gotten-you-arrested action. And as it gets worse, we’re faced with perverse feedback from residential electricity consumers: as temperatures climb ever-upward, the need for air conditioning climbs along with it—along with increased CO2 emissions. It’s a condition that climatologists have named “totally fucked [sound of another beer opening and it’s not even 10:00am yet].”

Let’s jump to the short-form proposal. One, every roof in California gets solarfied. Solarficated. Solarizated. Every roof gets those weird black rectangles on them what turn the ouchie hot-hot sun beams into refrigerator juice. Two, the state pays for it. Three, the state pockets the delta between any current costs and future costs. Methodology, ho!

It’s like a mirror, but if the reflection was powerful enough to run a hair dryer.

Step one: viability, broadly. Threshold question is whether this would actually result in enough power generated to consider actual costs. And I’m happy to report that the answer is… kinda, yeah! The most recent figures show Californians use about 250 million megawatt-hours yearly. (The USEIA figures are in millions of kilowatt-hours, but I’m going with megawatt-hours because extra zeroes are functionally useless, like the center drawer on a bathroom vanity, or travel insurance.)

Courtesy of extremely evil privacy muncher Google, we can operate from the baseline that total home solarization of California would yield a maximum of 243 million megawatt-hours per year. That leaves a variance of 7 million megawatt hours—under 3% of total demand—to be met by other sources, like wind, or Pelotons. Viability: it’s there.

Step two: costing it out. So we’ve ballparked a 243 million megawatt-hour output. How much would that cost to implement? With a $103 per megawatt-hour levelized cost of energy, that’s an annualized cost of a mere $25 billion. “Mere $25 billion?” you may be remarking to yourself as you collapse onto your Victorian fainting couch. “That’s a lot of money!” It is! It is a lot of money! And yet, it is substantially less money than the approximately $40.8 billion that Californians spent to get that same amount of electricity in 2019.

Step three: kidnapping power company executives and murdering them. That may be a slight exaggeration, but hey, sometimes you gotta fight fire with fire. Ultimately, putting power in the hands of the people means disgorging power from horrible stupid and greedy pieces of shit who are legally bound to enrich already-rich fuckheads at the low low cost of fucking over the poor and destroying the planet.

There. California’s share of the climate crisis: completely solved.