GLENN MCCULLOUGH: New energy methods required

When it comes to jobs, financial security, the environment and our children’s future, Mississippi’s energy policies are critically important. Simply put, we better get our energy policy right.
Over the next generation, our state should see strong growth in three sectors of the economy: automotive, aerospace and biotechnology. Mississippi must have affordable and reliable energy sources to encourage and power this growth.
In Mississippi we are fortunate to have a wealth of energy resources. The majority of electricity is generated through fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas, with 19 percent coming from nuclear power. These sources are essential to powering our economy and our homes.
While we are blessed with rich energy resources here in our state, we also face rapidly growing energy demands both here and across the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the growth in demand for electricity in the U.S. to increase 30 percent by 2030. And according to the Edison Electric Institute, we use 21 percent more electricity in our homes today than we did in 1978.
Mississippi’s annual average increase in electricity consumption from 1980-2005 was 2.6 percent, slightly higher than the U.S. average of 2.2 percent. In Mississippi, the commercial and industrial sectors consume 61 percent of the electricity produced. With manufacturing edging out agriculture as the state’s largest industry, state energy use and per capita energy consumption will continue to rise.
Our electricity grid strains under this demand. Mississippi will without question need new sources of power to keep up with this growth in the years ahead. Do we want to see rolling blackouts occur like California and other states have? If not, we must meet these new energy challenges head-on. Along with a diverse energy supply mix, growing demand must be met with the development of additional generation capacity and electricity transmission infrastructure.
Clean air is another important issue for all Americans. And though Mississippi’s air quality has improved in recent years, citizens continue to suffer ill health effects from air pollution. While emissions typically come from fossil fuel power plants, manufacturing centers, and transportation (i.e., automobile, bus, and truck exhaust, etc.), in order to enable continued improvements in air quality, the state must consider investment in additional emission-free sources of electric power generation.
Mississippi is fortunate to already have a supply of clean and affordable sources of power. The Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant near Port Gibson operates safely, reliably, and is emission-free. We also have the Red Hills plant near Ackerman that uses environmentally friendly technology with Mississippi lignite coal as fuel to generate affordable electric power.
Mississippi would be wise to maintain and expand these existing clean and efficient energy sources while looking to incorporate new energy sources and smart grid technologies into the state’s portfolio. New power sources are needed to ensure adequate and reliable supplies of energy to fuel economic growth and opportunity for our future. This need puts more responsibility on our leaders and policy makers to ensure that Mississippi pursues smart, effective energy policies that will meet our goals moving forward and ensure that the state can continue to grow.
In recent months I have heard unprecedented concern from business and political leaders about our energy challenges. As a former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, I know these concerns are both valid and important.
To address these challenges, a group of Mississippi energy, business, community, and academic leaders have recently formed a coalition, Advance Mississippi, to identify and promote energy policies that will benefit and advance the state’s economy, while also improving the environment.
Mississippians need to work together to make sure we get it right on energy policy. This means not accepting simple or pre-packaged solutions and being committed to addressing these issues for the long run, not just when prices are sky high. By working together, we can tackle these hard issues and ensure that the state literally does have a bright future.

Glenn McCullough, Jr. is the former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and also served as the mayor of Tupelo. He is chairman of Advanced Mississippi, a recently-formed energy issues advocacy coalition that advocates for superior energy policies that will foster economic growth. For additional information visit www.advancemississippi.com.

NEMS Daily Journal