Right now power-purchase agreements (PPAs) are technically legal for solar installations, but the solar industry wants to make that clear. They’re pushing for passage of Senate Bill 401, which would ensure that utility customers could be eligible for third-party ownership of a PV array. However utilities, among them Georgia Power, have voiced opposition to the legislation.
Georgia Power is contending that the bill would infringe on its territory and the introduction of new power producers would cause the utility to raise rates for customers because it would be required to raise its rates, according to The Savannah Morning News. The utility also cited the state’s Electric Service Act which established territories for utilities in the state.
“The quote about increasing rates, I think it’s misleading,” said Georgia Solar Energy Association Lobbyist Jason Rooks. “The biggest pressure on rates and customer bills is capital investment to meet forecasted future demand. If customers put their private capital in PV, that reduces long-term demand.”
“SB 401 is to clarify that customers have the right to onsite generation and financing in any way they want to,” he said.
The legislation is limited in scope. It doesn’t mandate that utilities buy excess power produced by PV arrays, nor does it require net-metering, according to Rooks.
“Our legislation is pro property rights and free market,” he said.
The legislation could have a large impact on the state’s renewable energy market.
“I believe this will set Georgia in the forefront in the southeast,” Rooks said. “There’s the same legal cloud in North Carolina, Florida and throughout the southern states. I think this will show that Georgia wants to be a leader in the clean tech industry. I think it will be significant and will be a game-changer.”
States with financing options have seen their solar industries grow quickly, according to Rooks.
“It’s boon in every state that they’ve been working in,” he said.
The legislation is now in the State Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee and has to come out of committee soon. Otherwise it might not make it to the state’s other legislative house by crossover day, which would effectively kill the bill’s chances.
“I’m still confident that that bill will make it through to the governor’s office,” Rooks said.
Whether or not the Governor will sign it remains to be seen.