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Georgia Legislature Introduces Late Bill to Allow Solar Leases, PPAs

Georgia’s legislature introduced a new bill, HB 657, The Rural Georgia Economic Recovery and Solar Resource Act of 2013 on Friday. Just one teensy problem, it’s too late for consideration this year. The bill would allow third-party ownership of solar in the Peach State, where Southern Co. subsidiary, Georgia Power has had exclusive rights to sell and produce power for 40 years. 

The new bill was introduced by Rep. Rusty Kidd (I), who said it was introduced late in the session so that lawmakers can study it and think about it for future sessions. Under the proposed legislation, Georgia’s Public Service Commission could allow a solar energy provider operate solar facilities and sell the electricity to Georgia Power, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. 

The legislation would benefit Georgia Solar Utilities Inc. The company is working to develop an 80-megawatt array near Milledgeville, but the company has much more ambitious plans. Last September, it said it plans to develop a 2-gigawatt portfolio of projects in the state. And the first project would be a fraction of a 500-megawatt farm it intends to build out. 

This bill would help facilitate all of this while staying within the bounds of Georgia’s Territorial Act, which allows Georgia Power its sweeping range throughout the state. The bill has wary support from the Georgia Solar Energy Association (GSEA).

“GSEA has long held the position that the Co-generation Act of 2001 is the relevant code section for increasing solar development in Georgia and that no changes need to be made to the Territorial Act to allow for third-party solar energy sales,” says GSEA Chairman Mark Bell. “We are glad to see the legislation adopts this outlook. We also like the legislation’s intent to extend the oversight of the Georgia Public Service Commission to this program should it be adopted.”

The bill would also make it easier for home and business owners in the state to go solar, according to Greentech Media’s Adam James. “For starters, the statute clears roadblocks like interconnection and grid access for generating assets, and the entire program is on an opt-in basis,” he writes. He says that competitive bidding will help create market incentives there to help drive down soft costs. “Since PV and solar farms are covered under the statute, neighborhood homes in Atlanta could have solar on the roof while unused fields in the country can host 30-megawatt solar farms.”

While GSEA supports the spirit of the bill, it also has some reservations, according to Bell. “This legislation in its current form appears to lack a number of important details that GSEA would like to see spelled out before offering its support,” he asserts. “Our lingering questions involve how and to what extent a broad range of consumers will benefit from this program as well as how it will impact the solar market throughout the state.” Bell says he will follow the legislation's progress and work with the legislature on the bill. 

The original article by Chris Meehan was posted on the SolarReviews blog.


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