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Controlling Energy and Sunshine

The State of Georgia historically lags in diversifying energy. Proposals are underway this legislative session in transforming the sector by using solar power.

Unfortunately, solar is a neglected renewable energy industry in the sunshine-peach State of Georgia. Nationally, Georgia ranks 7th in utilizing coal in generating electricity. This signifies that around 53.3 percent of electricity is derived from the coal sector. The renewable energy mix is only around 2.3 percent. Within this, the amount of power produced from solar energy is negligible.

Well, there is a glimmer of hope; the persistence of some of our vanguards of solar power in the current legislature may be a good thing for the industry. There are changes forthcoming, which if crafted well, will have the potential of transforming the sector, tempering fuel and energy prices, creating jobs and powering our communities.

In order to fully understand the sector, it is important to put some of the legislations in a historical context. In 1973, the world faced the Arab oil embargo which threatened the dependency of the United States on foreign petroleum to generate power for fueling transportation and generating electricity.

It is perhaps, not a coincidence that in 1973 the State of Georgia enacted the Electricity Territorial Act. However, within the backdrop of a global oil embargo, this piece of legislation lacked a state-level energy vision. This legislation provided no scope for renewable power production and is outdated. The ineffectiveness of this legislation is surmised from the fact that the original version did not even include the word ‘solar’, let alone make any reference to energy diversification. Additionally, the Act further promoted institutional monopoly in the distribution of power on the local level. It was only in 2001, when Part 3 of this legislation was amended as The Georgia Cogeneration and Distribution Act to include ‘electricity generated by steam or other forms of energy’ leading into diversification of the energy resource. The term ‘solar’ actually appears in this 2001 legislation. However, institutional area monopoly in supplying and distributing power persisted which curtailed the development of this industry. Recognizing these shortcomings, last year, during the legislative session 2012, Senator Buddy Carter introduced Senate Bill (SB) 401 proposing several changes but to no avail. Suggested revisions of the Bill, such as contractual framing through third party power purchase agreements were blocked by legislators, backed by monopoly holders.

However, efforts are under way this 2013 legislative session determined in making headway in the solar power industry.

No doubt, in 2013 the Electricity Territorial Act still lacks vision and is no longer a competitive piece of legislation as the law impedes third party financing to purchase power agreements. The act further restricts commercial and individual solar installations on the property of utility customers. To enable distributing solar for jobs and reducing energy bills, this Act of 1973 requires adapting several clauses. Adaptations are required with regard to electricity sale, inclusivity in promoting private sector participation and entrepreneurship, distribution, and transmission among other end user, private and commercial business interactions. Senator Carter is determined to transform the energy sector of the State of Georgia and has proposed to revamp SB 401 of the session 2012. Last year’s version brings the Bill up to speed with a revised SB 51 this current legislative session. In addition, an anticipated solar Bill is also in process that proposes the creation of a solar utility.

These changes may not be enough. However, with these proposed fundamental changes, Georgia can begin to initiate a dialogue for well-structured incentives, smart grid linkages and sunshine property rights for the renewable energy industry.

Will Georgia ever consider developing a comprehensive state-level integrated energy policy?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Shane Owl-Greason February 09, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Pricing, competitiveness and durability. Solar can now be installed at prices below grid parity...approx. $0.085-$0.095/kWh for 40 years! Try and ask the incumbent utilities or the gas companies to enter into a contract for levelized cost for 40 years at $0.09~....they won't nor can do it. The photons falling on GA each year is equivalent to 3.1B (yes, BILLION) barrels of oil in rural areas alone (from latest NREL stating 3000GWs of solar potential in rural GA annually). All solar farms can increase yield by 30-40% with tracking and GA Power has "banned" tracking in their latest 210MW program to suppress solar's known potential. The panels are rated and guaranteed by manufacturers 25-30 years for production and up to 1" size hail. Insurance protects the investment from extreme "force majeure". In short, solar has evolved to adequately replace and supply 20-30% of our energy (electric...including expensive "peak") needs....it is now time for our elected officials to evolve and recognize that the incumbent utilities are too entrenched in the fossil fuel industry to do what is in the "best interest" of our State and electric ratepayers without our educated help!!
Shane Owl-Greason February 09, 2013 at 02:41 PM
And to Martell....do not cherry pick information about thin film solar and then apply those to mono and polycrystalline solar panels! Such a waste of time and energy for others by spreading misinformation that leads to incorrect conclusions that could have been avoided if the misinformed person writing the comments would have simply stayed quite until they knew the proper facts. I do not even know where to start with all the misinformation you posted. Seriously....you provided solar professionals much to laugh about for years to come.
bulldogger February 09, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Article kinda reminds me of an old Jerry Lee Lewis tune from way back when with just one word change......."Whole lotta dreamin' (shakin) going on". I guess you just didn't get enough "Solyndra" to suit you. When are you folks gonna realize that alternative energy has nothing whatsoever to do with cleaning up our air. You ever heard the term "cap and trade"? If we don't stop our crazy as $%^& politicians, "cap and trade" will be coming to a utility near you, with price increases that will make your head spin and your bank account plummet. Those folks that are pushing "cap and trade" and alternative energy are doing it for one reason and one reason only......money. They are the folks that have investments in the "energy trading business", trading energy credits, as in cap and "trade"....they stand to make trillions. Why do you think they are pushing it so hard? Solar energy may be here big time one day, but not in our lifetimes. Another question....."why do you think Al (global warming) Gore is pushing it so hard? So he can trade energy credits, folks!!!!!!!!! Hence, all the push for solar energy. I would be willing to bet that the writer of this article is a big bhusseino supporter and doesn't have a clue as to how many jobs (or maybe she does and is just following the liberal agenda) would be lost. Whole lotta dreamin' $$$$$$$$$$$$
Robert Green February 10, 2013 at 01:17 AM
Energy generators that burn fuel to create energy will no longer be able to compete with energy generators that do not burn fuel. Has nothing to do with cap and trade or Al Gore. Simple physics! I run these calculations every day and people all over the USA believe me and what I say.
Bob Martell February 10, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Lord help us if we didnt have your "educated help" to tell us rubes what is in our "best interest"! I used some info for thin film equipment in an effort to keep the cost estimates DOWN. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, while more robust, are considerably more expensive. Using your numbers ( $.09/ kwh for 40 yrs) based on my usage for the last year means that having you look out for my best interest is going to cost me over $41,000...and since you're such a nice guy, you're going to give me a 25 yr warranty on some of the parts. I guess the money to buy new ones to cover the other 15 yrs will come from a government grant, right? We'll just tax some evil rich guy and make him pay for it. In your zeal to save us from (Middle Eastern) oil, you make us dependent on Chinese solar panels. Unfortunately, even the expensive monocrystalline panels only have a thermal efficiency around 22%. By comparison coal has about 40% efficiency and natural gas, which is inexpensive and abundant in America, has about 60% efficiency. Though you rail against the use of fossil fuels, you completely ignore the environmental damage caused by the mining of all those rare metals to make your precious solar panels. And how does one dispose of them after they no longer work? Have you tried to throw away one of those fancy compact flourescent bulbs lately? Do you think that it just doesnt matter if it happens 'over there'?

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