Solar in Louisiana could suffer after utility-backed candidate wins run-off

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Eric Skrmetta, the incumbent chairman of Louisiana's Public Service Commission, narrowly defeated Forest Wright Saturday to maintain his seat at the agency responsible for regulating the Pelican state's energy industry, in a closely watched and unusual race.


Skrmetta won the run-off vote 51-49.

Just a few days after the pair headed into a run-off, the home and cars of Bradley-Wright's campaign finance chief were firebombed. The ATF currently has a $2,500 reward out for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.


Skrmetta was able to out-raise Bradley-Wright during the race thanks in part to backing from corporate interests that the commission is responsible for regulating, like regional utility Atmos Energy Corp., AT&T, and CenturyLink.

Skrmetta has criticized the Environmental Protection Agency's new plan to curb power plant emissions as an "unfunded federal mandate."

He also favors keeping in place a cap on how much money solar energy users can receive for installing panels on their roofs and sending electricity they generate into the grid, and paying solar users a lower wholesale rate for the power they provide.

In January, Skrmetta led a vote to scrap the state's energy efficiency program without any public comment. A lawsuit overturned the vote, and the program was restored, but Skrmetta voted against it gain, arguing it would raise rates, according to New Orleans' WWL station.


Louisiana may now be poised to join the growing number of states that will examine measures that effectively undermine the greenhouse gas reduction goals President Obama has set. In November, Florida's Public Service Commission decided Tuesday to slash energy efficiency requirements for the state's four investor-owned utilities. The commission also said utilities could end their pilot solar programs at the end of next year.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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