Wind may be answer to rising energy costs

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Vidalia — A few windmills might be just what Louisiana needs to lower utility rates, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said Tuesday.

The Louisiana Public Service Commission is doing every thing it can to lower utility rates, Campbell said as he addressed a small group of Vidalia residents.

During the meeting, which is a part of his 2008 tour throughout his 24 parishes, Campbell spoke of a national study.

Email newsletter signup

This study tested the wind power over 1,800 places around the country.

Louisiana was ranked in the top 20.

“We’re No. 18 in consistent wind power,” Campbell said.

He was drawing his inspiration from Texas, which has a lot of wind power and has placed many windmills.

He said this is a good solution to energy production, with the price of oil rising daily and the use of coal unfavorable.

“It’s clean, there’s no foreign oil and people where windmills are placed are paid a lot,” Campbell said.

Most of the wind power in Louisiana is found in the gulf coast region.

He said old oil derricks or platforms could be used to build windmills on.

No matter what the solution, however, Campbell made it clear that utility prices need to come down.

“I’m doing my best to keep utility rates reasonable but it’s a hard thing to do,” he said. “We’ve got to get the rates down.”

The rates in Louisiana are $5 million more a month than they are in Alabama.

One thing that can prevent prices from going higher is not to deregulate monopolies, he said.

“I don’t think we need to deregulate your monopolies,” he said. “All it’s resulted in is you have higher utilities.”

He compared rates in Dallas, which was deregulated, and the rate is 14 cents per kilowatt hour versus Shreveport’s 7 cents.

Campbell concluded the meeting by talking about two new programs that have stemmed from the public commission service.

The first is for battered women. He said many women who are in abusive relationships don’t have a lot of money to move quickly away from their situation and that can prevent them from leaving.

“A lot of women in these situations are living in hell,” he said.

In order to encourage and help these women relocate, when they move into a new apartment or home, they are not charged to set up their utilities.

Hooking up water, gas, telephone and electricity can range between $400 and $600, he said.

This program went into effect in February 2007 and he said he was amazed at how many women have been helped through this program.

“I didn’t realize how many women this affected,” Campbell said.

The battery must be documented in some way for an applicant to be approved but it is handled confidentially.

“We’re the second state in America who’s done this,” he said.

The first state to implement such program is Texas.

Another program that has been set up is in response to inclement weather.

Utilities cannot be shut off due to a late bill if the weather is below freezing or with a heat index of 98 degrees, he said.

Campbell’s tour of his 24 parishes where he talks to citizens and addresses problems was part of his platform and he said it’s good business to hit the streets.

“My predecessor was a good fellow, a nice fellow, but he didn’t get out a lot,” Campbell said. “It’s just good to do that.”