This blog was written by Amelia Shenstone, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.Guest Blog | December 14, 2016
As in years past, the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) severely limited discussion of Alabama Power’s choices about its mix of energy sources at the one and only opportunity for public discussion it holds each year. The public Q&A on December 13 was limited to 20 minutes, which is barely enough to get a word in.
So here’s a workaround: send the PSC a picture of where you want Alabama’s energy to come from.
Now you can show and tell the people who make decisions about our energy future what sources of energy you would like to see with a new online tool. PicMyEnergyMix Alabama will send a picture of the energy mix you want straight to the Alabama PSC, showing them what Alabamians want as they make decisions about our energy future, especially concerning Alabama Power, the state’s biggest utility.
The PSC holds an informal meeting every December under the rules governing rate setting for Alabama Power. The purpose is to review plans that tally up the costs of Alabama Power’s environmental control upgrades to old coal plants – costs that are passed on to customers. But the plans don’t examine other options like replacing them with cleaner energy sources. In contrast, Georgia holds a series of multi-day hearings to discuss an integrated plan for how it will generate, and save energy, as do many other utilities.
Alabama’s meeting is off the record, and if commissioners attend they usually sit in the audience rather than in the panel at the front of the room. Their official business is done since they already approved passing on compliance costs to ratepayers the week before.
Do you know what sources of energy are used to power your home and turn on your lights in Alabama, now and in the future? The PicMyEnergyMix tool shows current sources, which may surprise you. Alabama Power’s long term plans:
- Dramatically shortchange new solar and wind: While Alabama Power is making some progress, Alabama is still woefully behind its neighbors in developing wind and solar projects that are cost-competitive with coal and natural gas.
- Put far too much emphasis on keeping coal plants online: While other regional utilities like Georgia Power and TVA are moving away from coal, Alabama Power plans to spend over a billion dollars more to upgrade existing plants.
- Dismiss any investments in energy efficiency: Alabama ranks near the bottom of all the states in programs aimed at helping customers use energy more efficiently and in cutting waste. Energy efficiency is the single most cost-effective way for residents and business to save money on their electricity bills, and it’s most effective when the utility offers savings programs.
These are weak foundations for creating an energy plan for the future – one that maximizes low-cost alternatives to the status quo. The PSC is elected to serve the public interest, but it fails to require a public comparison of energy sources from Alabama Power, or to allow public input on what energy sources we would like to see for economic or environmental reasons.
The PSC needs to hear from you about what our energy future should look like – even if you’re not an Alabama Power customer you deserve a say in these critical choices that affect us all. Please use this tool to automatically send the PSC your vision for Alabama’s clean energy future, and share it with your friends, family and acquaintances, too.