He disputed a prominent column in Forbes.com that criticized Louisiana and the PSC for not joining 46 other states in the effort.
Skrmetta said he supports energy conservation programs that the utilities themselves could better run. “It should not come at the end of a government mandate,” he said.
More jobs for Tangi? The power industry’s new marketplace, nicknamed MISO, may help utilities like Entergy buy electricity more efficiently if it becomes available cheaper than the utility itself can generate it, Skrmetta said.
And that marketplace may bring resources and jobs to East Tangipahoa or West St. Tammany, he said. Details are not known.
The Midwest Service Organization will soon have Entergy units joining the marketplace. These include Entergy in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Orleans, as well as many other electric utilities such as NRG, CLECO and some of the municipal systems may join later.
“It’s a two-minute market,” said Skrmetta. “They can look at what others are selling electricity for. If a company (like Entergy) can buy electricity cheaper than what they can generate it at the time, then the customers and rate payers come out ahead,” said Skrmetta.
The program is expected to start in the region Dec. 12-17. “It will stabilize the need for rate increases,” said Skrmetta.
The critical commentary by William Pentland March 3 made headlines throughout the country, including nola.com March 12. Pentland seems to wear many hats. Self-described “clean-energy wonk,” journalist and director of ClearEdge Power, a hydrogen fuel cell maker in Oregon.
The headline: “Big Win for Energy Luddites in Louisiana.”
Columnist Pentland wrote this about the changed course by the PSC: “Scott Angelle, a Democrat turned Republican who joined the PSC in January, cast the deciding vote to do so and, in the process, became the poster boy for the PSC’s abrupt change of heart on energy efficiency.”
Pentland wrote about a 1995 Department of Energy study that claimed every dollar spent on energy efficiency added 49 cents more to an area’s economic activity--as compared to every dollar spent on an electric bill. “This makes sense to me and 46 other U.S. states,” Pentland wrote. “Forty six states have implemented energy efficiency programs similar to the one rejected by Louisiana‘s PSC. And for good reason. Energy efficiency investments save customers money by lowering their utility bills. They also provide significant economy-wide benefits Indeed, the economic benefits created by investments in energy efficiency almost always exceed the costs of implementing efficiency programs.”
“This company and this writer clearly have a dog in the hunt,” Skrmetta said in Amite, pointing to conflict of interest. “You would expect him to be neutral. ClearEdge is in the business of providing energy efficient switches in buildings. This program looked like a $30 million gift to third party administrators like the Sierra Club. They would have been paid the bulk of these funds. Companies are in a better position to handle energy efficiency programs.”
The back story: In December 2012, the PSC passed a program called Quick Start. Skrmetta says it came about from a consultant hired by the PSC--but the report was rushed through without review and debate under previous PSC chairman Foster Campbell, a Shreveport Democrat. He and fellow Democrat Lambert Boissiere III of New Orleans voted for Quick Start in December. So did Eric Skrmetta, R-Metarie.
“I voted for it because under Robert’s Rules of Order, if I voted against it, I would not be able to bring it back up,” Skrmetta told Amite Chamber members.
In December moderate Republican PSC member Jimmy Field of Baton Rouge retired.
In February, three Republican PSC commissioners voted to stop Quick Start. This included new PSC member Scott Angelle. He has served in the Jindal administration cabinet. And Skrmetta.
“Now we’re going to go back, we’re going to start over and we’re going to get it done the right way,” Skrmetta told nola.com after the Feb. 27 meeting.
Industries and businesses consume 78 percent of electricity, said Skrmetta, and programs that the PSC may eventually pass should focus on encouraging business to adopt energy conservation because there are bigger savings than among consumers. “They can save the most,” he said. “We want to encourage consumers to save energy as well.”
“Pentland said that Louisiana is not particularly astute because 46 other states had done this. I disagree,” said Skrmetta. “Many of those 46 are rethinking this.”
The PSC may move in the coming months for a better approach, said Skrmetta.
“I am a Republitarian. This was a government mandate. I thought this was a bad idea,” he said, adding that he planned a response to the controversy on thehayride.com website later this week.
Skrmetta disputed charges that the PSC had acted on the program secretly and out of the public eye. “This was clearly an open session for two years. Hearings on the issue were open. There’s nothing suspicious about this. The goal is to find a replacement program that is not questionable.”
The Forbes.com columnist had obvious conflicts, Skrmetta said. The columnist was an outside writer, like many guest columnists who are not staff writers of the magazine or website.
“We have a job as protectors of consumers,” he said. “I’m the first guy to turn off the power around my house and yell at the kids to turn off the lights because I want to save electricity,” he said.
“I take this work very seriously. It’s not a job. It’s a commitment. I’m paid $33,000 for work I love. I do not work for the governor. I work for you,” he summed up.