Mississippi Public Service Commission approves “Mississippi Distributed Generation Rules”

Some Mississippians could receive rebates for installing sustainable energy systems
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 7:55 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A new solar program gets final approval by the Mississippi Public Service Commission today. However, there’s been pushback, including from the governor.

Here’s the basis of how this program would work. If customers who fall within a certain income bracket agree to put up most of the money to install a renewable energy system, like rooftop solar panels, they could get a $3,000 rebate from the power company. The incentives would also be available to public schools.

“As you may have heard, you know, natural gas, we’re very dependent on natural gas in the state of Mississippi. You really don’t want to be a single energy resource state,” explained Central District Commissioner Brent Bailey. “This is one incremental step to help us get out there and create new opportunities. 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 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.”

Less than 24 hours before the final vote by the Public Service Commission, Governor Tate Reeves took a swipe at the proposal, referencing “woke Biden policies” and saying it would mean more expensive energy for ratepayers.

“Some people call it woke,” said Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley. “I’m glad some people woke up to the fact that this has been going on for 20 months.”

Commissioner Dane Maxwell was the lone no vote, saying non-participants shouldn’t have to fund the incentives. Maxwell says he supports solar projects, but this is about the impact on ratepayers.

“This is just not something I believe that’s the best thing for further Mississippians,” said Maxwell. “And it’s certainly going to increase rates. And at this time our country is so unstable right now and with the cost of everything else, I’m not going to add another cost on our ratepayers. [I’m] just not gonna do it.”

Commissioner Brandon Presley says the rule can free up revenue for 85 of the state’s school districts, who would also be eligible for the incentives. He argues it won’t be a big hit to other ratepayers, even if it hits the cap.

“This program fully cost out at its peak is a $14.16 cent charge over the year,” said Presley. “We are not talking about a 45% rate increase.”

Several groups have weighed in over the course of the 20-month debate about the rule.

“The State of Mississippi has proven that providing tax and other incentives to companies such as Nissan, Toyota, and Continental Tire is an effective means of attracting and growing new industries in the state. These new solar incentives will position Mississippi to effectively compete for solar manufacturers, builders, and financiers in a highly competitive market”, said Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association (trade group representing Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana solar companies) Director Stephen Wright.

Entergy and Mississippi Power both filed motions with the PSC questioning whether the commission had the authority to create these kinds of incentives. Their argument is that it would add costs for customers who aren’t participating.

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