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Solar Leasing One Step Closer In Georgia

Under The Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act of 1973, Georgia Power was given the exclusive right to provide power to all homes and businesses in Georgia...

On Tuesday the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) took a big step forward to encourage more solar power in the state. The PSC acts on behalf of telecommunications, electric power, and natural gas consumers in Georgia and ensures safety, reliability, and affordability. Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., a company launched in Macon, GA, earlier this year, filed an application with the PSC in September for authority to generate solar energy in Georgia on a utility scale.

Under an old Georgia law – The Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act of 1973 – Georgia Power was given the exclusive right to provide power to all homes and businesses in Georgia. Any other major power provider, like a solar integrator who builds a massive solar farm, would be in direct contention with the Territorial Service Act and thus Georgia Power’s exclusive right to providing power in the state.

The motion passed by the PSC on Tuesday encouraged Georgia Solar Utilities to appeal to the General Assembly to amend that law and open up the power generation business to competition, specifically solar energy companies.

If the Territorial Service Act is amended to allow other entities to become power generators, it is likely that innovative solar installation solutions like solar leasing and 3rd party power purchase agreements could pop up in Georgia.

Under a solar lease, home and business owners can have solar panels installed with no upfront cost. The solar lease allows consumers to pay less each month on power bills thanks to financial savings from selling the power that is generated by solar panels.

Georgia Senate Bill 401 would have made it legal for solar companies to sell excess energy earlier in the year. Though the bill had bi-partisan support, Georgia Power opposed it, stating that it would likely increase power rates in Georgia.

Senator Ross Tolleson, one of the main opponents of the solar lease bill, said that opening the solar market to competition would make electric bills jump 15 to 20 percent.

“To have another third party seller of electricity would work against the system we have and make everybody’s rates go up,” Tolleson said in a WSB TV interview.

Solar energy enthusiasts like consumer advocate Clark Howard think otherwise. “The reason they opposed it is they know there would be far more solar installed in Georgia. They are frightened of that,” Howard said in the same WSB interview. “Typical savings if you lease panels as people do in other states will be 30 to 50 percent of your power bill,” he added.

In a PSC  news release, Commissioner Lauren McDonald said that solar energy “provides an outstanding opportunity to supplement our fossil and nuclear power sources, and because of the rising costs of coal, solar energy has become competitive with fossil fuels. Studies continue to show that Georgia has a significant amount of solar potential, and I believe that it is in the best interests of Georgians that this Commission take appropriate actions to encourage parties to bring innovative solutions for our consideration.”

PSC Commissioner Stan Wise supported McDonald's pro-solar views, stating that “non-mandated solar generation might put downward pressure on the utility’s rates” in a state like Georgia which currently lacks broad solar policy support.

Allowing more solar in Georgia will also create jobs. The solar industry employs more than 100,000 Americans, more than twice as many as in 2009. They work at more than 5,000 companies, the vast majority being small businesses, in all 50 states. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar businesses added 6,735 new workers in all 50 states since August 2010, which represents a 6.8 percent growth rate. During the same 12-month period, jobs in the overall economy grew by a mere 0.7 percent, while fossil fuel electric generation lost 2 percent of its workforce.

Solar Energy USA is located in Alpharetta, GA and is proud to be GA's largest residential solar company.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paula M December 09, 2012 at 05:38 PM
New Solar Technology should be given every opportunity to grow in Ga. Georgia Power Co. should adapt and change. This self serving law is not in the best interest of corporate growth in Ga. If I were able to influence builders and policy makers.........build all with a combination of passive energy & super-insulation. Address heat islands with cool pavement technology. Use reflective coatings on asphalt, roofs & shingles. Give incentives to companies that use these energy saving technologies. Encourage companies that manufacture these to relocate here. Change the state law to encourage the new technology.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg December 09, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Solar is still a heavily subsidized and speculative industry. See Energy Department's Sunshot Initiative. That said, I have no problem seeing it compete with Southern Company as an alternative and potentially good deal for you and me. However, if you are interested in solar because you believe that it will ultimately lessen our environmental impact in this country think again. The United States stands on the threshold of being a major exporter of oil and coal into a world of 7 billion people. We have vast reserves of these natural resources.

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