Stalemate at the PSC – Report from Foster Campbell’s Office
The stalemate over solar power and net-energy metering continues at the Louisiana Public Service Commission. For nearly a year, commissioners have delayed discussion of a proposal by District 3 Commissioner Lambert Boissiere, D-New Orleans, to require electric utilities to receive certification from the PSC that they have reached a PSC-imposed limit of .5 percent of net-metering capacity before refusing to allow new net-metering applications on the grid. As it stands three rural electric co-operatives – Panola-Harrison, Northeast and Washington-St. Tammany – claim they have hit their .5-percent limits and are denying new net-metering applications.
Solar installation companies report they have been negotiating with electric utilities and individual commissioners on ways to break the impasse, but there is no obvious progress.
Recall that the commission voted 3-2 last June to defeat a proposal by District 4 Commissioner Clyde Holloway, R-Forest Hill, to downgrade the value of electricity from net-metering customers. Boissiere, District 5 Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Bossier City, and District 2 Commissioner Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, voted ‘no’ and District 1 Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, R-Metairie, joined Holloway in voting ‘yea.’
At the same meeting commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of a proposal by Holloway to convert the PSC’s .5-percent net-metering threshold from merely a trigger for further review of net-metering into a “hard cap” limiting the growth of net-metering. Boissiere and Campbell voted ‘no’ and Skrmetta and Angelle joined Holloway in voting ‘yea.’
Staff of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, meanwhile, attended this week’s PSC meeting with copies of a new statewide public-opinion survey showing strong support for solar power and net-metering. The poll was conducted for the Alliance by Dr. Ed Chervenak at the University of New Orleans Department of Political Science. It was based on telephone interviews conducted in February with a random sample of 505 registered voters living in all five PSC districts.
Here are some key questions and results of the Chervenak poll:
- Should Louisiana state government try to make renewable energy like solar power more affordable, less affordable, or do nothing to affect its cost? Results: 78.3 percent said more affordable, 4 percent said less affordable, and 17.8 percent said do nothing.
- Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Customers deserve to continue receiving retail credit for the energy they produce, as currently proscribed by Louisiana’s net-metering law? Results: 49.5 percent said strongly agree, 43 percent said agree, 4.2 percent said disagree and 3.3 percent said strongly disagree.
- Do you approve or disapprove of the utilities’ proposal that customers with net-metered solar panels should be charged an additional fee? Results: 5.4 percent said strongly approve, 10.7 said approve, 37.3 percent said disapprove and 46.6 percent said strongly disapprove.
- Louisiana’s current law (the PSC’s order capping net-metering at .5 percent of utility capacity) has some of the most restrictive limits on how many homeowners can use net-metering. Do you think the state should lift the cap and allow more individuals to receive retail credit for the solar energy they produce? Or do you think the state should restrict the growth of solar energy by capping how many people can net-meter? Results: 89.5 percent said allow more individuals to get solar net-metering, 10.5 percent said continue restricting solar net-metering.
Meanwhile, The Advocate newspaper of Baton Rouge reported earlier this month (http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/8349370-123/suit-filed-against-solar-company) that two New Orleans residents filed suit in federal court accusing Jon Sader, CEO of Sader Power Enterprises, of overstating the potential energy savings that could be realized from leasing his solar equipment. The suit also alleges that Sader Power and Griswold Power, also connected to Jon Sader, are not properly licensed to install solar systems in Louisiana.
Sader told the newspaper he is confident the court will conclude that his leasing agreements are legal, but his spokesman declined comment on the charge that Sader is not properly licensed to install solar.
The LPSC’s next meeting is scheduled Wednesday, March 12, in Baton Rouge. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Office of Foster Campbell
LA PSC District 5, Shreveport
800 256 2412