Questions raised about Public Service Commission’s decision on solar power subsidies – WLBT

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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Mississippi’s utility regulators are ending the program that offered subsidies for those looking to switch to solar power. Several groups advocating for solar argue the decision could hinder the industry’s growth in the state.

Here’s the baseline explanation of why the Public Service Commission voted to end the subsidies that shaved off some of the upfront costs to install solar panels.

“We don’t have a problem with anybody doing rooftop solar,” said PSC Chairman Chris Brown. “We don’t have a problem with people participating. Just don’t charge your neighbor for it. And I think that’s ultimately what this does.”

That was at the PSC’s April meeting. The one no vote was from Commissioner De’Keither Stamps. But not because he disagrees with Brown’s assessment of the program.

“Fundamentally, you know, there are ratepayers out there who can’t afford solar panels,’ said Stamps. “But they’re having to basically chip in, so the folks who do it. So basically, this consensus was that poor people shouldn’t pay for rich people to have solar panels.”

Stamps says his no vote was because he thought they should hear from those involved before making the decision.

Because they didn’t seek public comment, the Mississippi Sierra Club filed lawsuits challenging the process.

“Was there any notice?” asked attorney Robert Wiygul. “No. Was there any opportunity for the public to have input? No. And when a rule like that is put out or changed, Mississippi law says you give the public their shot at it. And again, most common sense thing in the world.”

Several organizations got together on a call Wednesday to say the decision will have a harmful impact on the growing industry.

“Businesses rely on a regulatory environment that is stable, and that they can rely upon the cost of businesses that have invested in recruitment, training and hiring programs might be significant,” noted Monika Gerhart, Executive Director, Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association.

“We’re not against solar,” countered Stamps. “It was just the subsidy portion that was a point of contention.”

Net metering is still in place in the state. That allows you to produce energy with solar from your home and sell that production to the utility company. The piece that’s been frozen is the money to make it more affordable on the front end.

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