ATLANTA – Amid the falling snow blocking the sun Tuesday, Rep. Mike Dudgeon introduced legislation designed to bring solar power to more homes and small businesses.
The professional electrical engineer acknowledges that similar attempts have run into opposition from the state’s 95 electric utilities and electric member cooperatives.
“I love my friends in the power companies and EMCs,” said Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek. “… Hopefully they’ll come on board.”
Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said Wednesday that executives with the state’s largest electric utility were still evaluating the proposal, but suggested it wasn’t necessary.
“The current structure that has been in place for many decades has served customers well,” he said.
Current law allows property owners to arrange financing through banks to install their own solar panels, but it prohibits them from working with companies dedicated to both financing and operating the panels for them. Such turn-key arrangements are permitted in 22 states, but Georgia utilities say the law here blocks those deals because only licensed utilities can sell power to individuals, even if the electricity is essentially a rental payment for use of the rooftop.
Georgia Power initiated a program of buying solar power from private companies, and the Public Service Commission recently expanded it. Now more than $1.7 billion in solar investment is in the process of installation.
But that’s still not as fast as it could be for individuals and small businesses wanting their own systems, but not the bother of maintaining them, according to solar trade groups.
Both the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association and the Georgia Solar Energy Association endorsed the bill as one that will generate jobs for them at the same time it generates electricity savings for property owners.
“Enabling free-market financing will spur growth in our state’s solar industry, attract investment from local, national and international companies, and create high-quality new jobs for Georgians,” said Jason Rooks of the Energy Industries group.
Dudgeon introduced his bill after the current legislative session is one-quarter complete, but he said he hopes the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee will at least hold a hearing on it even if no vote is taken this session.
“It’s a subject, no matter how you bring it up, it’s controversial,” he said.
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