Louisiana gets about 4% of its energy from renewable sources, compared to 20% for the nation as a whole. Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis, who represents swaths of the Capital Region, was elected last year with hopes of moving the needle on renewables.
Lewis says the PSC made a “costly mistake” in 2009 when it failed to adopt a renewable portfolio standard. As of November, 36 states and the District of Columbia had established an RPS or a renewable energy goal, and in 12 of those states (plus D.C.), the goal is 100% clean electricity by 2050, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“We cannot transition overnight,” Lewis says. “We have to actually outline how we transition in a timely but durable way.”
Louisiana’s dependance on natural gas leaves ratepayers vulnerable when the fuel’s price spikes, which is one reason it’s good to have more sources in the mix, Lewis says. New projects can take three to four years from submission before connecting to the grid, he adds.
The slow approval and connection process is a national issue that’s not limited to renewable projects. But some renewable developers don’t have the capital to wait out the backlog, and they don’t have the luxury of putting their facilities where connecting to the grid is easiest because they need to be where the sunshine or wind is best collected; think Louisiana farmland for solar or rural west Texas for wind.
Commissioner Craig Greene, who also represents parts of the Capital Region, says he is seeking ways to infuse more competition into the system, in hopes of promoting generation development regardless of source and without asking captive utility customers to shoulder all the costs of large power plants.
“Ensuring all generation resources are able to efficiently and cost-effectively connect to our power grid is critical to maintaining reliable electricity at the best prices for Louisiana utility customers,” Greene says by email, adding that “reducing barriers to entry on the transmission grid and infusing competition into our regulatory framework provides the best end result for Louisiana residents and businesses.”