What role for renewables in an oil and gas state?

October 20, 2014 12:00 PM

Linda P. Campbell

Solar and wind energy

Although natural gas is a “huge part” of the energy picture in Louisiana, Jeff Cantin of the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association says other options such as wind and solar energy should be properly weighed in the mix. (Photo from Dollar Photo Club)

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

Jeff Cantin, Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association

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 on Thursday (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 daylong Gulf Coast Electricity Transmission Summit, co-sponsored by Tulane Law School, the A. B. Freeman School of Business and the School of Science and Engineering at Tulane, 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, Cantin said, cost considerations shouldn’t be limited to production and transmission but include regulatory compliance, risks of fuel price shifts and other factors.

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

Linda P. Campbell is Tulane Law School’s director of communications.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu