Columnist Kelley Williams opines that electric utilities, like hospitals, are regulated monopolies where customers often get more expensive and less reliable services.
Both are regulated monopolies. Government monopolies. Patients and customers are denied the benefits of competition. Patients have fewer choices and get government medicine. Customers get more expensive and less reliable electricity.
Hospitals have Certificates of Need. They are issued by bureaucrats empowered by the legislature. Patients are like fish. CON’s are licenses for favored hospitals and their employees to catch and treat them – according to official protocols and The Science. Remember Dr. Fauci? He forgot: First do no harm.
Entergy and Mississippi Power have the Public Service Commission. It’s like a security force with lawyers. It protects utility monopoly service areas and rubber stamps utility solar and other schemes.
The Mississippi Legislature enables both. The monopolies are grateful. They say thanks with campaign contributions. And with jobs for revolving door regulators. And with perks. A Senate Energy Committee Chairperson proudly posted a selfie taken in Entergy’s New Orleans Saints Skybox. Did Entergy’s CEO get her cell number? Do customers pay for the Skybox?
Here’s an example of how the PSC limits competition – with an assist from lawmakers. Entergy recently discovered it needed more generating capacity after shutting down two ancient natural gas plants. So it issued a Request for Proposal for new plants. You would think the RFP would be for modern reliable natural gas plants. You would be wrong.
The RFP was for renewable solar plants only. Not natural gas plants. (They will be added later to keep the lights on.) How did state lawmakers grease the skids for solar? And exclude natural gas plants?
The PSC was up for reauthorization in 2020. The legislature perfunctorily voted to extend its life four more years. It also gratuitously authorized utilities to buy solar power from third parties (or utility subs), mark up the cost, and make customers pay for it.
You may have heard people say Mississippi is a backward state. We’re not. We are cutting edge in utility law. We are the only state that authorizes a Corporate Entergy sub to buy electricity from solar plants it didn’t build, mark up the cost, and charge customers a handling fee. Is that cutting edge – or what?
We seem to be working hard to contaminate our electric grid with solar power so we can have blackouts too like California. Cool huh?
In case you forgot what causes blackouts, solar power is intermittent. It’s not on all the time. It’s obviously not on at night when the sun’s not shinning. But it’s not on in the daytime most of the time either during the fall and winter. For example, as noted in a prior article, Entergy’s Mississippi Sunflower solar plant generated electricity 14% of the time September 2022 – March 2023 on average and only 6% of the time in December 2022.
Why is intermittent electricity that works occasionally a problem? It’s not unless you want your lights to come on when you flip the switch. If you do, there has to be another plant generating electricity when you need it and solar’s not working. That’s usually a natural gas plant. Utilities must have backups for solar plants. Well, why do they need solar plants too? Good question. Maybe so utilities can build two plants instead of one. Charge customers for both. And pay shareholder dividends from guaranteed returns on both.
It takes a cooperative legislature and a compliant PSC to make that happen. And a cynical disdain for customers who foot the bill. And a presumption that an uninformed public will not hold utilities and the PSC and legislators responsible for blackouts when too much intermittent solar power disrupts the electric grid.
The grid connects generating plants and customers. But it doesn’t store electricity. It must have reliable excess generating capacity to meet changing customer demand. Intermittent solar capacity isn’t reliable. It may not be available when needed. It adds capacity uncertainty to uncertain customer demand. That can make the grid unstable. A little instability can cascade. Like a levee break. And cause a catastrophe.
There are other issues with solar. Solar electricity is direct current. Household and most commercial electricity is alternating current. Household appliances run on alternating current. So direct current solar electricity must be converted to alternating current. Inverters make the conversion. They have reliability issues too. And national security issues. Most of them are made in China.
So why are two of our three PSC commissioners pushing solar?
The retiring Northern District Commissioner is running for Governor. As a Democrat. The U.S. President is a Democrat. His Inflation Reduction Act pushes solar. The candidate wants National Democrats to give to his campaign. Their gifts are essential. So his support for solar is understandable. It’s just politics. However, it’s not working. And it does seem inconsistent with his opposition to the $7 billion Kemper County Lignite Plant – because it was a boondoggle. Solar’s a boondoggle too.
The Central District Commissioner is a Republican. He pushes solar too. That seems inconsistent with his responsibility to assure customers reliable affordable electricity. But he pushed solar before he became a Commissioner. And may push it when he’s not. He may think solar will help global warming or climate change or homeless polar bears. And that that’s more important than cheap reliable electricity.
The Southern District Commissioner is also a Republican. He’s opposed to rushing solar before cost and reliability issues are resolved. Sounds good for customers. They deserve a break.
In theory, the PSC balances the interests of customers and utilities. In practice, it doesn’t. It can’t carry water on both shoulders. It doesn’t even try. No one represents customers. The Public Utilities Staff, armies of lawyers, experts, and lobbyists represent utilities. It’s Goliath vs. David – without a rock and sling. And there’s no mercy rule for customers as utilities run up the score.
Dr. Fauci and his sycophants are beginning to squirm. Their deceptions and the consequences are emerging despite government and media censorship. Wheels of Justice. Faster please!