Stephen McLamb is challenging incumbent PSC Commissioner Jeremy Oden (R) in the Republican primary for the Alabama Public Service Commission Place 1. The Alabama Public Service Commission is a three-member state commission that regulates utilities and has to approve rate increases for Alabama Power Company.

He recently spoke to the Republican Women of Shelby County regarding his decision to run. 

“There was a proposal to raise the fees,” McLamb said. “All three [Alabama Public Service Commission members] voted for it. That is when I decided to get in this race.”

After leaving the radio and television industry to work for the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, McLamb braced himself for a large pay cut. To prepare for that pending loss in income, McLamb built a solar power generation system with battery storage at his home in Guntersville.

“I thought they were pretty reasonable [systems],” McLamb said. “I went and refinanced my home and took out a 15-year loan. The system cost $13,000.

“My power bill is $28 a month. If power goes out, mine does not. That is a huge benefit.”

As he was building his solar system, “which I dubbed 'redneck powerplant' in 2020,” he learned from a friend in Demopolis that if he were an Alabama Power Company customer that he would have to pay fees to the power company in order to operate his solar power system.

McLamb receives power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is a federal agency not regulated by the PSC. “[Because I get my power from the TVA] I don’t pay any fees,” McLamb said. “The fees [at Alabama Power Company] would be $90 a month without taking any power.”

McLamb cited recent polling that showed that 92% of Alabamians support energy choice.

“The price of solar has dropped 70%,” McLamb said. “There [are] no labor costs. There [are] no fuel costs.”

“Twenty-five thousand homes in South Carolina have solar panels. Five hundred and one Alabamians have solar. We are 49th [in adopting solar power].”

McLamb blamed the fees charged by Alabama Power and the PSC for allowing Alabama Power Company to get away with charging those fees to their customers who use solar panels.

“You should have that option, or your children should have that option, or your grandchildren should have that option,” McLamb said. “Mississippi does not pay fees, Georgia Power has no fees, Florida Power and Light [has] no fees.”

McLamb criticized Alabama coal companies, which fund the PSC candidates’ races, for this situation.

“You will see hundreds of thousands of dollars going into this race from coal and coal-related companies,” McLamb said. “They will put that money [into the race] four to six weeks out from the election.”

Alabama is one of just a handful of states that allow unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns.

“Coal is not interested in you saving money,” McLamb said. “States like Georgia almost 10 years ago began aligning themselves with clean energy.”

McLamb said that this has resulted in solar companies bringing jobs to Georgia.

When asked about nuclear power, McLamb stated, “Nuclear is good base power source. It carries the base power. It is good if you have a lot of base energy needs. It is not good for peak needs. You cannot raise it up and down like a steam plant.”

Both incumbents Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker are up for re-election in 2022.

Tommy Hammock, Stephen McLamb, Jeremy Oden, and Brent Woodall are all running for PSC Place 1 in the May 24 Republican primary.

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