Simon Mahan: Watching Energy Changes Unfold

Simon Mahan
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Simon Mahan of Lafayette has a front row seat on the changes sweeping the electric power production field by way of this job with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Mahan, who has solar panels on his Lafayette home, is a wind energy specialist for the organization which lobbies and advocates for renewable and clean energy usage across the South.

It’s from that vantage point that Mahan looked at the LUS net metering price hike enacted in September by the LCG Council and flew into action. Mahan labeled the new rate plan the “solar tax.” It stuck. LUS was taken aback by the blowback and soon rescinded the rate hike.

Mahan is a big fan of LUS. He’s an LUS Fiber customer (in addition to the rest of the utilities package). But, he believes other cities with similar infrastructure are doing more with it than LUS is doing here. He’d like to change that.

Like Woody Martin of the Sierra Club, with whom Mahan partnered in opposition to the solar tax, Mahan would like to see LUS create some formal channels for communications with its customer base which, after all, constitutes the owners of the municipally owned utility system.

Mahan’s Catholic faith plays a part in his advocacy of clean energy solutions. He notes that the Vatican was going green before the arrival of Pope Francis. But, he also points out that Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on our common home, is recasts energy usage and, yes, climate change in terms of morality.

Mahan believes it is unconscionable for LUS to have renewed its 30-year contract with CLECO to partner on a coal-fired power plant in Boyce, LA, when alternatives and even natural gas are better priced and cleaner alternatives.

The fact that LUS does not have an energy efficiency program — as in, at all — is further evidence that the organization is too rooted in the past recognize the opportunities before it.

Part of LUS’ latest rate hike is to enable it to fund a natural gas plant at its existing local plant on Walker Road. Mahan points out that conservation through energy efficiency is the cheapest route to energy production and that it save capital investments by reducing the need to build new production facilities.

We also talked about the possibility of putting solar panels on every public building in the parish to both reduce demand for LUS (on those buildings with in the City of Lafayette boundaries) and the other utilities serving government and public facilities in the parish. These types of investments (combined with better insulation and using technology to regulate heating and cooling) would reduce the cost of operating local government.

It’s a wide-ranging conversation. Now available for listening.

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