Solar panels

The Sierra Club’s Louie Miller is praising the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) for extending for three years an additional 2.5 cents “adder” for lower income utility customers who install solar panels. The adder will allow customers to sell electricity back to the grid for a total of 4.5 cents a kilowatt when the solar panels produce excess electricity.

Only within the last couple of years, has the PSC embraced pro-solar panel policies. Mississippi Power and other utility companies have taken a dim view of solar. But after the Kemper disaster, Mississippi Power agreed to quit fighting solar panels as part of its Kemper lawsuit settlement with the Sierra Club.

Despite ample sunshine, Mississippi has a long way to go. California leads the nation with 17 percent of its electricity coming from solar. The amount of solar produced in Mississippi is half a percent. According to the Solar Industries Association, neighboring Louisiana has 14,795 solar installations and a solar workforce of 2,950. In comparison, Mississippi has 300 solar installations and a workforce of 770. Even so, Mississippi moved up from 43rd to 27th last year in the pro-solar rankings based on an improving attitude at the PSC. In addition to rooftop solar, two big utility-scale solar projects are underway in the Delta near Greenwood.

Experts have long dismissed solar as too small to be of significance, but this is no longer the case. Last year 29 percent of the new electricity production in the nation came from solar. A new study by the investment firm Lazard, shows wind and utility-scale solar to now be the least expensive way to produce electricity. Rooftop solar is more expensive, but the solar panel efficiency keeps rising and the cost keeps dropping. More importantly, rooftop solar can serve as a grassroots check on regulated monopoly electricity pricing. The PSC should continue to support policies that encourage more adoption of rooftop solar in Mississippi.

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