JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi electric and natural gas utilities will soon be paying for their customers to cut energy use.
The state Public Service Commission voted unanimously Thursday to adopt energy efficiency rules requiring all gas and electric companies with more than 25,000 customers to begin offering programs within six months.
Commissioners say efficiency will save customers money by reducing the amount of power used, and will cut the need for new power plants in the future. Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey said the rules "will ensure utilities are educating their customers about how they can control some elements of their utility bills."
Quick start plans would be filed within six months. They could include energy audits, tuning customer heating and air conditioning systems, appliance and lighting rebates, weatherizing homes, and paying builders to make new homes and commercial structures more efficient.
Within three years, utilities would have to file more comprehensive plans. They would be allowed to recover the costs of implementing those plans by raising rates on all customers.
"We've supported the commission's efforts throughout this process, and have already begun work in this area in anticipation of the commission's rules," Mara Hartman, spokeswoman for Entergy Mississippi, wrote in an email. The company had petitioned for a delay of several months to allow for planning.
Mississippi ranked last on a scorecard of states put out earlier this year by the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy. The council cited the lack of PSC policies and reports showing little spending on conservation and little energy saved. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency and Tennessee Valley Authority reported that the 2010 electric utility energy efficiency program's budgets were $12.5 million. No natural gas efficiency programs were listed in Mississippi.
"This is a big move to move us off the bottom and it's going to create jobs," said Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley.