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These nuns are fighting their city's government in a battle over affordable energy bills: 'Some rules need to change'

The city council has opened up a public comment period and will look into changing the rules.

Sisters of the Holy Family

Photo Credit: Sisters of the holy family

Last year, New Orleans ranked as the eighth leading city in the U.S. in terms of solar energy usage. In order to encourage even more solar usage among individuals, the city established a Community Solar Program four years ago.

Unfortunately, however, a group of nuns hoping to take advantage of the program have found that it is not as simple — or as effective — as it should be.

The nuns of Sisters of the Holy Family want to build a "solar garden" on a 22-acre plot of land in New Orleans East as a way to help people who are underprivileged in their neighborhood access clean, cheap energy. 

"We, the sisters, cannot work as we used to because of our aging membership, but we still minister in other ways to support our mission to the poor," Sister Alicia Christina Costa told the New Orleans City Council.

While it is laudable and impressive that the aging sisters have found ways to use new technology to improve people's lives and help the planet, they said the rules around the Community Solar Program are standing in their way.

Under the current rules, customers who bought into solar gardens in New Orleans would receive bill credits that do not equal the full value of the electricity produced by the gardens. This, the nuns said, is discouraging investors and preventing people from actually taking advantage of the program.

In support of their argument, the nuns cited the fact that even though the program was created four years ago, not a single solar garden that meets its standards has been built.

"Maybe some rules need to change to make it feasible for investors to embark upon such projects," Sister Alicia told the council.

The city council has opened up a public comment period and will look into changing the rules.

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