“This is not the time to place even more strain on ratepayers,” the Southern District Commissioner says.
Despite opposition from consumer groups and even Governor Tate Reeves, the Mississippi Public Service Commission voted 2-1 to revise its net metering rules, also known as the “Mississippi Distributed Generation Rules,” from its original update in July.
READ MORE: Governor Reeves joins Commissioner Maxwell in opposing PSC’s net metering rules
Commissioners Brandon Presley (D-North) and Brent Bailey (R-Central) voted to adopt the changes while Commissioner Dane Maxwell (R-South) once again voted no, the same as he did earlier this year.
Maxwell, chairman of the Commission, read a statement at the close of the meeting outlining his opposition and concerns. He said that while he supports both “traditional and renewable forms of energy,” his primary contention is the unfair cost of the net metering rules on Mississippi ratepayers.
“The reason I have consistently voted against the new net metering rule is that it just doesn’t sit right with me to give a certain customer a subsidy paid for by other similar customers,” Maxwell said. “Here is an example, I can’t comfortably say to one customer, you must pay 11 cents per Kwh and to another, you don’t have to pay that. Let’s require the first person running a single parent household to subsidize the second one by giving the second one a $3,000 gift, while forcing the first person running that single parent household to pick up that cost in the rates paid by that family. The people in my district that elected me, know that is not just and certainly not reasonable.”
Maxwell went on to say that he welcomes anyone that wants to use any form of energy they want, and he believes the Commission has done their best to promote energy diversity.
“As for me, I welcome anyone that wants to build a solar or wind farm and I will vote for and have voted for every single one of those facilities that have met the legal requirements,” Maxwell said. “However, I draw the line on any of my constituents paying more than others to have their lights on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That is not just and it’s not reasonable.”
Central District Commissioner Bailey disagreed with Maxwell’s assessment, saying that the amended rules will provide Mississippi customers of investor-owned utilities with the option to invest in their own ability to self-supply and interconnect with the grid, increasing sustainable energy adoption.
“The Rules also make Mississippi open to business for clean energy technology developers, manufacturers, and installers, which will create countless good paying jobs in the industry,” Bailey added. “These Rules not only drive economic growth but will also have a positive impact within our school districts. We have seen substantial support from our school districts across the Central District as they recognize the positive impact this can have on their budgets.”
In addition to the amendments to the rules themselves, the PSC Order set forth provisions instructing the utilities to make separate filings for the approval of Solar-for-Schools programs and up-front incentives for distributed generation systems.
For the 85 school districts who are eligible to participate, Bailey said this initiative will give them an opportunity to grow their energy savings, reinvest in academic programs, and make students aware of these new technologies.
“We are seeing a transition across the nation, from coast to coast, as we embrace the benefits of developing a diversified market for energy,” the Central Commissioner said. “The new rules provide customer incentive programs that reduce risks, reduce energy consumption, and puts money back into customers’ pockets, while at the same time diversifying the energy fleet in the state, resulting in a more resilient, reliable, and affordable power system.”
Northern District Commissioner Presley touted the new rules as working across the political aisle with utilities and marketers.
“We passed a bipartisan solar program today that will reap millions in new revenue for public schools, provide Mississippians a route for energy independence and savings while making our electric grid more reliable,” Presley said. “While Commissioner Maxwell, Commission Bailey and I don’t always agree, I can proudly say we three treat one another with respect and appreciate each other’s opinion. We look for ways to make government work unlike other public bodies that are only interested in a partisan food fight.”
Presley went on to thank the many school districts and the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents for their support of the “Solar for Schools” program. He says it can create $40,000 to $125,000 in annual revenue for the 85 school districts served by Mississippi Power and Entergy which can go towards teacher pay increases or funding the school supply lists.
However, with the rise in natural gas prices, Maxwell, the Southern District Commissioner, said both Entergy and Mississippi Power have talked about increases that are coming due to fuel increases. He said Mississippians are already in a strain at the grocery store and the gas pump.
“This is not the time to place even more strain on ratepayers, by implementing changes in our current net metering rule,” Maxwell concluded.