Last week a student on campus asked why solar energy was so limited in Georgia. At the time I really didn’t have an answer for him. I knew that Georgia had plenty of sunny days but was unsure as to why there was so much unrealized solar potential in the state.
Around the same time I received an invitation to attend a conference on supporting the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy in Georgia. Perfect timing! It was at the event that I read a surprising fact: Georgia spends $33B per year to purchase energy from other states, mainly Texas. This equates to roughly $30B on petroleum, $1B on natural gas from the Gulf region and $2-3B on coal. To put this into perspective the entire budget of the state of Georgia is only $19B!
So why don’t we use other forms of renewable energy available to us, including solar? Well its because of the 1973 Georgia Territorial Electric Service Act (GTESA) which makes it illegal for anybody but Georgia Power to sell electricity to a Georgia home or business. It also prevents anyone who buys solar panels or any other form of energy generation from selling their excess energy to anyone except Georgia Power. This means business and homeowners cannot enter into a popular solar agreements found in other states.
A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) is a financial arrangement in which a third-party developer owns, operates, and maintains the solar system, and a host customer agrees to site the system on its roof or elsewhere on its property and purchases the system’s electric output from the solar services provider for a predetermined period.
So rather than financing and owning the solar system yourself, you pay a pre-determined rate for the electricity produced by the solar panels on your roof, to a solar services provider. The provider will take care of installation and maintenance, while providing clean, green, solar-powered electricity to your home or business for years to come—all at a cost less than or equal to your current electricity bill.
If you are deadset on solar energy on your property, you can do it but this DIY route presents an obstacle for many people and businesses because it can be cost-prohibitive to buy the solar panels outright. In addition, it reduces the incentive to make the investment because the excess energy cannot be sold to anyone but Georgia Power, which limits its solar energy purchases.
This conference was sponsored by the Georgia Solar Energy Association (GESA) so I didn’t get to hear Georgia Power’s side of the story. I am sure in 1973 there was a reason that lawmakers voted for the GTESA but times have changed and so has our environment. I would love to see property owners have a way to get affordable solar energy at their homes and businesses.
If solar power purchase agreements were legal in Georgia would you consider solar panels on your home?