Solar energy under attack in Louisiana
Immediate decisions by Louisiana’s Public Service Commission (PSC) will have a major impact on residents’ energy choice and independence.
The PSC is deciding the fate of a vital solar policy known as net metering, which ensures that rooftop solar customers are fairly compensated for any extra electricity they send back to the grid.
There is a government-imposed constraint on net metering. No more than 0.5% of ratepayers can take part. It’s called a net-metering cap. Many call it a “micro-cap.” And right now most utilities are approaching or have hit that cap.
At issue is how many ratepayers are allowed to utilize net metering. It’s unthinkable that government would limit such an opportunity. Net metering also ensures that Louisiana has a choice when it comes to energy. Net metering introduces free markets and competition for consumers.
But right now only 0.5% of Louisiana ratepayers are able to make use of net metering because Louisiana caps net metering. That cap is lower than nearly all states across the country. That means the vast majority of residents no longer have the option of net metering and the energy choice and the energy independence that goes with it. They are at the mercy of utility monopolies – the very same businesses that have been trying to undermine rooftop solar because it disrupts their business model.
The PSC has a clear choice when it votes to lift these caps. They can give in to vested special interests who want to destroy a competitor. Or the PSC can stand with consumers and give them the option of energy choice, independence, and savings.
Net metering is not a subsidy; it doesn’t cost the government one red cent. In the long run it’s good for utilities and you as individual homeowners. That’s because solar users are essentially building the utility a brand new power plant as they send excess power back to the grid. That’s one less power plant the utility and you have to pay for as the user.
Utilities do not like the idea of competition. Utilities are undoubtedly hoping the PSC will tow the utility line and kill a competitor and the more than 2,000 rooftop solar related jobs in the state. It’s worth noting that several commissioners may be on the ballot this year.
I am an optimist. I am hopeful that the PSC sees the current net metering solar “micro-cap” for what it is, a utility driven attempt to put competitors out of business and put consumers under the thumb of large and powerful power companies.
Solar energy is under attack in Louisiana, if the PSC doesn’t lift the cap, utilities win.
In this political season where voters are rising up and challenging the establishment, I call upon the PSC to do the same. Send those special interests packing and give Louisiana residents real choice and competition when it comes to how they get their electricity. There are more than 17,000 solar net-metered customers in Louisiana. The rest of the state should have the same option.
Barry Goldwater, Jr. served 14 years in congress. He served on a number of committees, including Committee on Science and Technology, Committee on Public Works and Transportation, and the Joint Committee on Energy. He is the Chairman of TUSK which advocates for energy choice.