Other Opinions

KATHY EGLAND: Why is equity an essential component to net-metering rules?


All adverse energy impacts in communities are not created equal. Low income, elderly and communities of color disproportionately suffer the brunt of the economic and health atrocities associated with fossil-fuel produced energy. A transition to safer, renewable energy sources is paramount to curing these disparities.

However, a conversion in power generation, without consideration of fairness, affordable access, equity and inclusion is likewise, a reckless disregard for human rights. An energy transformation cannot simply trade one disparity for another. Therefore, a responsible net-metering rule, which incorporates methodology and program models that allow for renewable energy ownership, rental or leasing at all socio-economic income levels, should be a primary consideration.

The contention that net-metering should be subjected to unreasonable penalties or restrictions, because it is a subsidy for the rich at the expense of the poor, is one which is usually industry advanced with a concern merely for their own profit margin. Costs assessed for usage and maintenance of the electric power grid must be accurately gauged, fair and kept to a minimum. Any direct, relative charges for the grid must not be at the control or discretion of the energy industry. The solar and wind industries, as well, must be more accountable and all-encompassing in efforts to build bridges of opportunity during our energy restructuring.

Mechanisms for fair payment for input of electricity to the grid, such as net-metering, are crucial to our much needed energy evolution. While we should unequivocally support net-metering without unwarranted fees, we must also insist our Public Service Commission incorporate safeguards into its rule that will not create a wealth and energy divide. The power of nature's sun and wind resources should be within reach of all who wish to extend a lifeline to them.

Instead of our Mississippi Public Service Commission recognizing the urgency and benefits of investing in safer, affordable renewable energy alternatives, they gambled on our future and saddled the ratepayers of South Mississippi with a risky $6.2 billion dollars and climbing, experimental, nonrenewable energy debt, which our children's children will inherit. We hope the PSC will act more responsibly now and more progressively by establishing a reasonable and balanced net-metering rule, which will allow the ratepayers who elected them, an opportunity to ease its compounding energy woes.

Mississippi has a unique opportunity to be a bright, shining example of harnessing energy that will not further deteriorate our planet, while embracing the ability of all our people to be a part of that process. This time, we should get it right.

Write Kathy Egland, NAACP National Board of Directors member and the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee chairman, at ktegland@aol.com.