Electricity blackouts are alarming, no doubt about it.
Losing power is unacceptable, whether we’re talking about air conditioning your home, or having functional hospitals and airports. But bad becomes worse when some â€śexpertâ€ť from Missouri starts using record breaking heatwaves in California to peddle falsehoods about energy policy in Mississippi. That’s what Mr. Terry Jerrett did in a recent op-ed column published by the Clarion Ledger (“Californiaâ€™s electricity woes should serve as a lesson to other states,” Aug. 24).
To claim that blackouts in California are proof that renewables arenâ€™t reliable is a gross misstatement of the facts.Â The truth is solar power and renewables performed above expectations while fossil fuel power plants did not.
According to Steve Berberich, CEO of California ISO, which operates the majority of Californiaâ€™s wholesale power grid, renewable energy was “not a factorâ€ť driving the blackouts. Â Berberich described the power shortage as a matter of “raw capacity”, asserting, â€śIf anything, the state needs more renewables, backed by extensive deployment of batteries.â€ť
Here in Mississippi, thanks to the leadership of the Public Service Commission, our state is on the right path toward a renewable energy future.Â A bipartisan effort on part of the commissioners has created a regulatory climate that is attracting private investment in new utility-scale solar. Recent legislation passed in the 2020 legislative session has provided further incentives for private investment in solar and utility-scale battery storage in Mississippi.
As recently as last month, the Commissioners unanimously approved two large-scale solar projects for Hancock and Clarke counties.Â These new projects represent tens of millions of dollars of new investments that will directly benefit local communities by providing jobs and tax revenue while lowering customersâ€™ monthly bills.
Another big benefit â€“ Mississippiansâ€™ will not pay one penny out of pocket for these investments!
To boot, more solar projects are in the pipeline since Mississippi is rated eighth in the nation for solar-energy potential.
Sunshine is a free fuel â€” a total bargain when compared to traditional and even experimental forms of energy, such as the failed $7.5 billion Kemper Coal Plant. Solar cuts out the middle man by eliminating the need to import coal or gas while shortening the distance electricity has to travel across power lines. This results in lower monthly energy bills because customers arenâ€™t being held hostage by ever-fluctuating fossil fuel prices.
The bottom line is this: renewable energy did not cause Californiaâ€™s blackouts. The future of our energy sector will be solar and utility-scale batteries, not fossil fuels â€“ a future that is being embraced by Mississippi leaders.Â Letâ€™s make sure Mississippi stays in the game.
Louie Miller is the state director of theÂ Mississippi Sierra Club.