APN Q&A: John Noel, Candidate, Public Service Commission
(APN) ATLANTA — With Primary Elections for several statewide races coming up on May 22, 2018, Atlanta Progressive News sent questionnaires to all candidates for the Democratic Primary for for Georgia Public Service Commission District 3.
The PSC District 3 seat is currently held by Republican Chuck Eaton, who is seeking reelection. Eaton has been a consistent supporter of nuclear power and Georgia Power shareholders.
Seeking the Democratic nomination are Lindy Miller, John Noel, and Johnny White.
Johnny White’s responses were published on April 20, 2018.
Lindy Miller has not responded.
Noel runs an energy efficiency company that he founded in 1999 called Energy + Environment, LLC.
In 2002, John Noel entered politics when he shockingly defeated then-State Rep. Billy McKinney, a thirty-year incumbent, in the Democratic Primary for State House.
In explaining his Primary loss to Noel, the now-late Rep. McKinney famously said his constituents “wanted a Klansman, a son of the Confederacy,” bombastic assertions that had no factual support.
In 2003, then-Rep. Noel made national news of his own, when he went on to sponsor a bill making it a misdemeanor for restaurants in Georgia not to serve sweet tea.
As the story is told, Noel was at a lunch with other legislators at a restaurant that did not serve sweet tea, and someone said that “ought to be a crime,” when Noel agreed.
Five legislators co-sponsored HB 819, which provided, “Any food service establishment which serves iced tea must serve sweet tea. Such an establishment may serve unsweetened tea but in such case must also serve sweet tea… Any person who violates this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.”
Noel lost his State House seat when he ran for reelection in 2004; State Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta) won the Democratic Primary.
For at least the last couple years, Noel has been actively attending PSC meetings and speaking out against the continuation of Plant Vogtle.
When not allowed to make public comment at a recent PSC meeting in Dec. 2017, Noel later videotaped himself making the comments to the empty hearing room, which also angered the PSC.
Noel’s responses to the APN questionnaire are as follows:
What is your position on nuclear energy?
It is an inherently more dangerous source of power than any other.
Wind turbines can be problems for bird migration but they don’t have the potential to take out whole sections of a state or region.
But ultimately these historical arguments are trumped by economics. It just doesn’t make ANY economic sense to build these things anymore. Period.
Republicans like to crow about subsidies for solar. How about the $50 billion plus spent on just R&D for nuclear in the last few decades? (as compared to $24 for solar)
No, this deal in the end is partially pre-paid by ratepayers and federal taxpayers thru federal tax credits and then on the backs of all of us with higher electric rates for decades to come. You tell me which form of power makes more sense?
Nuclear power doesn’t pencil.
Do you support the continuation of Plant Vogtle 3 and 4?
Do you support small modular nuclear units near large cities, as was previously proposed in Georgia?
Do you support requiring Georgia Power and other utilities to meet certain goals with the regard to the percentage of solar and wind energy in their total energy mix? If so, what targets and timelines would you recommend?
That’s what the PSC is supposed to do. That’s what we will be considering (happens every three years) in 2019. Insofar as percentages and timelines: I have no preconceived answers other than I’d like to see a dramatic ramp-up in the use of renewables and re-thinking on consumption. The bias should be toward conservation, not generation. Conservation is THE MOST environmentally-friendly solution both for our pocketbooks and the planet.
What other proposals do you have, if any, to increase solar and wind energy in Georgia; and/or to reduce obstacles/barriers to low-cost solar and wind in Georgia?
More residential and commercial adoption of RE (renewable energy). I’m a pretty good “walk the talk” kinda guy. This response is composed on a computer running on power generated from the sun. And my home is, right now, off the grid – not always, but often. I don’t think Georgia could elect someone (certainly not in this race) with a greater environmental ethic.
If elected to the PSC will your philosophy be, “If it’s good for Georgia Power, it is good for the customers?”
No. I sat in a PSC hearing where a similar question was asked of the GP table, except it was relating to shareholders vs. customers. It wasn’t a pretty answer, though it was honest.
With respect to Georgia Power’s guaranteed profit by the PSC, when, if ever, do you believe Georgia Power shareholders should take some meaningful risk and absorb losses?
The final numbers for 2017 are in. ROE (Return on Equity) “band” of return Georgia Power is allowed is 9-12%. Wouldn’t ya know that the profit came in at 11.91% ?
That’s just amazing. Well, not really. It’s the same old same old down there. Crony Capitalism. This 19 year business owner says – bring a little bit of free market to this thing!
Would you support more transparency for ratepayers about their rates, specifically including the following idea and recommendation of APN: A once-per-year insert with power bills that breaks down what infrastructure projects are still being funded through the power rate and how many years of payments are left on each project?
Education is the name of the game. I’ve been in the energy efficiency business for 20 years. I know how to educate on energy – and people are yearning for it. They don’t understand their bills. Many don’t understand their energy usage. We’ll be hosting a town hall in Athens soon on just this topic. Encouraging people to bring their power bills (Georgia Power or otherwise) so we can explain it.
And: Love the once a year insert. Fabulous idea.
How will you increase public understanding of PSC issues and processes, and public participation in PSC activities?
We’re going to move some of these meetings out of Atlanta. In much the way I’m running my campaign (and getting out of our metro Atlanta bubble), I think the PSC should do the same. I was interviewed by the Valdosta Daily Times recently. One theme down there, and in plenty of other places, is this distance (literal and figurative) they feel from the Capitol. We need to change that.
Should public comment be allowed at every PSC meeting? PSC committee meeting? At hearings related to ratemaking, Vogtle Construction Monitoring? Would you support at least three minutes of public comment? If not, what should the time limit be, if any, or how would you structure the rules around time limits, if any?
Every one. I’d want to consult with PSC staff on their thinking. The public has gotten the short end of the stick for years with this Commission. That’s going to change.
Do you believe, as is currently proposed, that only lawyers should be allowed to serve as Intervenors at PSC meetings?
Doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Would you put a tax on people with solar panels to pay for non-renewable power infrastructure?
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2018)