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What role for renewables in an oil & gas state?

October 20, 2014


Panelists Jeff Cantin and Simon Mahan and moderator Pam Russell of CQ Roll Call review visuals illustrating the points made by Entergy’s Andrew Owens on energy affordability.

Can clean energy also be affordable?

“Yes, clean energy is affordable, it is available and it is usable,” wind energy proponent Simon Mahan of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told an audience at Tulane Law School Oct. 16.

But other speakers at a morning panel weren’t quite as adamant.

Andrew Owens, director of regulatory policy for Entergy, said renewables have a role to play along with other energy sources. But he said his company, which serves almost 3 million customers in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas, controls costs by using a mix of sources and resources that includes natural gas, nuclear power and smart long-term planning.

“It’s a benefit of having a pretty diverse portfolio,” he said.

The occasion was a day-long Gulf Coast Electricity Transmission Summit, co-sponsored by Tulane Law School, Tulane University’s A. B. Freeman School of Business and School of Science and Engineering and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.

Policymakers, utility executives, regulators and environmentalists focused on topics such as improving electric reliability during disasters, modernizing the regional grid and meeting emissions limits.

Jeff Cantin, secretary of the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association, called the summit “a wonderful opportunity” for discussion rather than divisiveness over diversifying energy sources.

While the region has lagged in experimenting with new technologies, he said, it has the advantage of learning from others further ahead.

One of the issues is defining affordability when some benefits of using alternative energy sources aren’t easily quantified. For instance, costs considerations shouldn’t be limited to production and transmission but include regulatory compliance, risks of fuel price shifts and other factors.

Though gas is a “huge part” of the picture in Louisiana, Cantin said, other options should be properly weighed in the mix.

“All sources are necessary,” he said. “Let’s make sure we’re valuing renewables where they need to be.”


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