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Letter to the editor: Benefits of UCLA’s energy plan outweigh monetary costs

By Austin Park

Oct. 15, 2018 10:50 p.m.

Daily Bruin columnist William Bleveans argued in an opinion column Oct. 8 that the University of California’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 is ambitious and impractical.

But Bleveans’ assertion that 100 percent renewable energy for the UC system “promises to be prohibitively costly” is categorically false. It could actually be cheaper than buying electricity from the grid. In locations with decent resources, wind and solar can be the cheapest sources of electricity. Using Lazard’s 2017 Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – a standard metric of the cost to generate electricity from a certain resource over a project’s lifetime – it is clear that wind and solar are not only the cheapest resources but are also dropping their price tags the fastest.

In claiming that the UC’s “infrastructure promises to be wildly expensive,” the column is wrong about both the dirt-cheap price of renewable electricity and the financing mechanism. In pursuing the UC system’s goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, the University would likely enter into several power purchase agreements. Depending on the form of the power purchase agreement and its role in it, the UC may not bear the high upfront cost of solar and wind.

Bleveans is correct that it will probably be even cheaper to enter solar and wind power purchase agreements a decade from now. However, the opportunity cost of waiting a decade is missing 10 years of cheaper, renewable power. It also includes missing the opportunity to take the lead in the clean energy transition.

And most importantly, it ignores the urgency of climate change.

Park graduated from UCLA in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He served as one of UCLA’s Carbon Neutrality Fellows for two years and is currently a master’s student at Stanford University studying energy resources engineering.

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