Fear of Change and a Non-Entrepreneurial Spirit
HB-0354, HB-1378, HB-1542, SB-2914 – What do they all have in common?
- They are all bills introduced during the 2014 legislative session aimed at accelerating renewable energy generation and usage in the state of Mississippi.
- They all died in committee without a vote, three in the House Ways & Means Committee and one in the Senate Finance Committee. No documented attempt to combine, modify and send forward; only a brief statement saying something like “02/26 (H) Died In Committee”
For at least three years, individual MS legislators and their fellow members have been attempting to get legislation passed to encourage the growth of a new energy sector in the state. The puzzling question for many MS citizens is “Why can’t they at least bring it to the floor and let the men and women who represent us vote on it? Are there hidden forces at work, applying pressure? Does the legislature or its leaders not wish to see MS move forward in the arena of renewable energy? Do they think MS is not ready for this type of progressive action?”
Since the everyday citizen of MS cannot access the inner workings of these committees or offer real-time feedback on the issue, we may never know the answer. Perhaps they believe the technology is ‘too new’. However, since the technology is now 30 years old, most people would not accept that as an intelligent reason to delay. The federal government and TVA do not think that is a valid reason for not moving forward, both on the commercial and residential front.
Perhaps they would use the excuse of “It would cause too much confusion for the Utilities because there is no standard interconnect format/requirement.” This is probably a valid statement due to the patchwork of utilities and co-operatives that cover the state. However, with IEEE and NEC guidelines to lead them, this could probably be solved in about a month. All it would take is for the Engineering Leaders of each group to sit down at a table and map it out. Once again, the federal government and TVA do not think that is a valid reason for not moving forward, both on the commercial and residential front.
It is possible they may have decided that the technology is still too expensive for the majority of people in the state and the payback is still too slow. I would hope this is not the case as value is in the eye of the individual and payback is a matter of personal risk acceptance, NPV and IRR. For example, well-designed solar systems can now be installed for as low as $3-$4 per watt and have payback windows as narrow as 7.5 to 8 years, with potential IRR’s of 6 to 9%. Given design lives of 20-30 years, theses number are worth evaluating.
Perhaps it is fear of collapsing the utility industry’s profit margins due to increased utilization of renewable energies like PV-Solar and Solar-thermal. With the age of our grids and our risks of wide-spread severe weather events, I can see where this may concern some people. However with populations continuing to grow and energy requirements continuing to grow, surely this is not the case. Otherwise, why would many experts be predicting an average increase in electricity costs of 3% to 3.5% every year for the foreseeable future?
There is no discussion about the potential for new jobs and small business growth in the state as a result of this action. There is no discussion about the reduced dependence on fossil fuels (although small in the beginning, but growing) as a result of this action. There is no discussion about peak energy relief during the hottest and coldest times of the year. Or perhaps the discussions are taking place outside the chamber walls and fear of change is preventing discussion on the public record.
Are there pitfalls in trying to design and implement strategies/incentives for moving a new industry forward without causing a “net detrimental effect” on a state and its taxpayers? I’m sure there are but that’s why open, respectful and intelligent discussion, along with new ideas, is needed. This has apparently not been a problem with many other states and the federal government. To borrow from and paraphrase Henry Ford: “Whether you believe you will fail or believe you will succeed, you are probably right.” Or (unknown) “the only true failure is the failure to act.” Or (unknown) “you can’t win if you don’t play.” They all fit our legislature in this situation. These are just the thoughts of a common, everyday citizen of the great state of Mississippi.
John E. Bailey, Jr.