Davante Lewis: If Louisiana wants to be like Texas, it must embrace solar


In recent years, there has been talk in Louisiana of a so-called “Industrial Renaissance”—a boom in economic development along the industrial corridor stretching from Lake Charles to New Orleans.

But with a vast majority of the energy consumed in Louisiana being eaten up by large commercial and industrial users, how can the state hope to keep energy costs low while also inviting such development? Speaking at the Press Club of Baton Rouge’s meeting last week, District 3 Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis shared his insights.

According to Lewis, Louisiana needs to start thinking about the Industrial Renaissance through the lens of renewable energy.

“What we are faced with is a challenge of how we can continue providing electricity at a low cost while also protecting our environment and our people,” Lewis said.

Only 3% of the energy currently produced in Louisiana comes from renewable sources, but Lewis said the state has the potential to generate up to 13,000 megawatts of solar energy—a figure equivalent to Louisiana’s total electricity demand—if key investments are made. With about 216 sunny days per year, the state’s climate makes it an ideal location for solar power generation.

Lewis also cautioned against falling into the “old way of thinking” that the diversification of Louisiana’s energy mix would pit producers of renewable energy against already established players.

“Solar is not an enemy of oil and gas,” Lewis said. “Solar is actually not even a competitor of oil and gas. … Our industrial users desperately want renewable energy [to meet] their sustainability and investor goals.”

Lewis went on to recognize the $156 million grant recently awarded to Louisiana by the EPA to facilitate the development of long-lasting solar programs as a big step in the right direction when it comes to the state’s energy transition.

“We are seeing that the federal government is looking to Louisiana to be a leader on solar,” Lewis said. “I often hear tahat Louisiana is competing with Texas. Well I’ll tell you, Texas is producing solar at a record [rate] right now. If we want to be like Texas, Louisiana must embrace solar energy.”

Beefing up Louisiana’s solar energy production and incentivizing battery storage could also serve to shorten the duration of outages that result from severe weather—an issue that is top of mind for many across the state given the grim forecast for this year’s hurricane season.