Georgia Consumer Choice Bill Would Boost Economic Opportunities

Stephen Smith | February 22, 2012 | Energy Policy, Solar

Georgia Power and Southern Company are up to their dirty tricks again, this time blocking the development of clean renewable energy and using their monopoly power to hold Georgia economic development back!

A bipartisan bill in Georgia that seeks to expand consumer choice and economic competition in power production and remove artificial barriers to renewable energy development is currently pending in the Georgia General Assembly.

SB401 addresses a fundamental question of customer freedom to use renewable energy such as solar power, to produce and consume electricity on-site, regardless of whether a customer owns or leases/operates the property or utilizes other modern financing mechanisms such as Third Party Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

Georgia Power is again using their influence to stymie renewable energy development in the state– and it couldn’t be any more clear than with SB401.  The bill has broad bipartisan support and co-sponsorship including State Senator Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) and sponsored by Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone), Jason Carter (D-Decatur), Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock and majority leader) and Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna), but was somehow assigned to the Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Republican State Senator Ross Tolleson. Under typical procedure, the bill would have be sent to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee, where the bill would have been given a fair hearing from senators used to to dealing with utility issues.  Senator Tolleson has publicly stated that he does not intend to permit the bill to progress. Pow!The truth is that the Georgia Territorial Act does not prohibit Third Party PPAs and it was never intended to impede distributed generation.  But, Georgia Power continues to exploit this myth regardless of the fact that Attorney General Opinion 69-27 holds that a private person may sell energy to unregulated private users of electricity and that sale is not a retail public sale.  Further, the Co-Generation and Distributed Generation Act of 2001 expressly encourages private investment in renewable energy resources to stimulate the economic growth of Georgia and enhance the continued diversification of the energy resources used in Georgia.

SB401 introduces an amendment that reinforces the spirit of the Co-Generation and Distributed Generation Act.  This bill’s intent is to remove any confusion and preclude all artificial barriers raised by utilities.  It defines the term “customer generator” as any on-site distributed generation facility, irrespective of how it is financed.  It clarifies that the structure of a financing arrangement for a customer generator should not prohibit its development or create the need for regulation. The bill removes existing caps on the size of individual projects, and adds additional eligible resources. SB 401 also prohibits unreasonable charges for connecting with the utility system and provides that charges by the monopolies for metering services must be “commercially reasonable.”

SB401 is a clear and important opportunity to improve consumer choice and renewable energy options for all Georgians by specifically providing access to solar Third Party PPA developers.  It informs consumers of their rights and reinforces the existing laws. There is no reason why Georgia should not live up to its billing as the 5th best state for solar energy in the USA, and benefit from the jobs and economic recovery opportunities that accompany it.

Now is the time to stop Georgia Power and Southern Company’s dirty trick which support dirty power.

SACE supports this bill and we urge all Georgians to do so by contacting your state Senators TODAY.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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