Editorials

Solar power a welcome addition to Coast

Solar panels can cut electric bills but they are a big investment.
Solar panels can cut electric bills but they are a big investment. amccoy@sunherald.com

Last year, renewable electricity capacity — solar, wind and the like — overtook coal in a worldwide survey by the International Energy Agency.

The IEA said it expects renewable capacity growth to accelerate and it sees the U.S. among the leaders in that expansion.

Policy changes and falling prices are fueling that conversion.

For instance, the agency says policy uncertainty is slowing the expansion in the European Union.

That used to be the case in Mississippi as well. The state lacked a net metering program to govern the sale back to the utility of excess power produced by solar panels on a home.

Late last year, the Public Service Commission OK’d a general net metering program and is working with utilities on specific procedures and measures.

Mississippi Power is the one of the first to have those procedures. And judging from the crowd at the Mississippi Solar Energy Forum earlier this month, there is considerable interest in taking advantage of it.

Louie Miller, state director for the Sierra Club, said more than 200 people came to find out about solar power.

That’s good news for the planet. The PSC, the Sierra Club and Mississippi Power made this happen and we thank them for working out a net metering solution.

Mississippi Power’s parent company knows solar power is a good deal. It’s investing in it as another way to diversify its energy portfolio.

And saving 40 percent or more on a monthly utility bill would be sweet. But the initial investment required to make that happen is pretty steep and a switch to solar energy isn’t for everyone.

Our advice to the homeowner or business owner considering solar power: Do your homework. The Sierra Club said the new rule will cause a “blossoming” of solar-power companies. As with any emerging industry, not all companies will be created equal.

Talk to people you know who have experience with solar. Consult the Sierra Club and others who can hook you up with the expertise to make the right choice.

We know the club trusts Sun Pro, a Louisiana company that installs solar panels on homes. After all, it invited the firm to the forum.

And work with Mississippi Power if that’s where you get your electricity. The utility will be, more or less, your partner. It has detailed online resources that can help answer a lot of questions. The PSC (www.psc.state.ms.us) also has a lot of expertise.

They can also show you ways to save on your power bill even if you don’t switch to solar. The best part is you don’t have to be a Mississippi Power customer to use its site to learn about renewable energy.

There are federal tax credits available, as well, to help with the cost.

So as you can see, there are a lot of variables to be considered. Don’t go it alone.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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