Mississippi Power on Friday debuted its 52 MW solar facility near Sumrall. Calling it "the largest solar power plant in the state of Mississippi" the facility spans over 595 acres and houses more than 215,000 solar panels.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission on Tuesday added a new rebate and low-income credits in its updated rule on compensating homeowners for generating renewable power.  

With hopes of growing the number of Mississippians self-generating renewable power, the PSC announced a $3,500 rebate for home and small business owners purchasing a system such as rooftop solar panels, as well as higher payments to households earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level.   

“These new rules will make Mississippi open to business to clean energy technology developers, manufacturers, and installers, and will help boost low-income opportunities allowing Mississippians to experience the cost-saving benefits of solar energy,” Central District Public Service Commissioner Brent Bailey said. 

Net metering works by customers selling any extra renewable power they generate back to their utility company. 

Mississippi has the second-lowest number of participants – roughly 300, as of February –  among states with a net metering law. It also was one of the last states to adopt net metering, starting the program in 2015. 

Clean energy advocates were critical of the original rule because, unlike in most states, net metering customers in Mississippi aren’t reimbursed at the retail price for their generated power.

The PSC’s regulated utility companies – Entergy Mississippi and Mississippi Power – pushed back against expanding net metering, arguing that paying too much money in incentives puts an unfair cost burden on non-participating customers. 

Although the new rule announced this week didn’t raise the reimbursement rate, Mississippi Sierra Club director Louie Miller called it a “win for the clean energy sector.”

“I applaud the commission on what they did, I think they really stepped up,” Miller said. “As we’ve seen with the price of natural gas and with how volatile fossil fuels are, this is going to give a lot of people the option to self-generate their electricity.”

Between the new $3,500 rebate and federal rebates available to self-generating customers, those homeowners are going to “see some real money,” he explained. Miller also pointed to long-term benefits of self-generation, such as during storms when customers lose connection to their utility’s power grid.  

Among other changes, the new rule allows the PSC to go back and make changes once the threshold for net metering customers – which increased from 3% of a utility company’s peak demand to 4% – is met, giving the commission more flexibility. The changes also lock in whatever reimbursement rate a customer is receiving for the next 25 years. 

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Alex Rozier, from New York City, is Mississippi Today’s data and environment reporter. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Open Secrets, and on NBC.com. In 2019, Alex was a grantee through the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines program, which supported his coverage around the impact of climate change on Mississippi fisheries.