Solar Heats Up in the Southeast

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Despite strong sun and plenty of public support for the idea of energy self-reliance, the American southeast has not traditionally been a hot spot of solar adoption. That looks to be changing. With solar’s low cost now making it a real competitor with traditional fossil power, local citizens are increasingly calling on state leaders to put more of their homegrown sunshine to work. We’re tracking two big solar developments from the southeast this week:

Georgia:

The state’s largest utility, Georgia Power, has petitioned the Commission to impose a new charge on customers that would amount to a 45-55% tax on solar energy systems. Local industry leaders are fighting back against the discriminatory tax, pointing out that it props up the monopoly utility at the expense of market competition and individual property rights.

“Americans are increasingly choosing to produce their own electricity on their own property with solar power. Now, faced with some real competition for the first time in a century, Georgia Power is doing all it can to keep its customers hostage with new taxes and regulation. We’re here to say that nobody can tax the sun,” said Jason Rooks with the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association.

“The strongest energy market is one that allows diverse participation and competition among business models. In stark contrast, Georgia Power’s proposal is anti-choice, anti-consumer, and anti-innovation. Members of the Public Service Commission who believe in free markets should strongly oppose this monopoly action,” said James Marlow, founder of Radiance Solar, an Atlanta-based solar installation company that has served over 125 customers statewide.

Georgia Power proposed the solar tax as part of an ongoing rate case. The Commission is expected to issue a decision in the rate case by December 17. There’s reason to believe they’ll work to protect Georgia solar rights: just this week the PSC staff recommended that the Commissioners reject the solar tax. Back in July, the Commission made another big pro-solar move when they approved a plan to add an impressive 525 megawatts of new solar power by 2016. That’s enough to place the state squarely among the nation’s solar growth leaders. Here’s hoping they stand strong for solar once more with a good decision in this rate case.

North Carolina:

With solar quickly becoming a widespread, affordable option, state leaders are working to understand the impacts of this dynamic energy resource on North Carolina ratepayers. The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association commissioned a study to help shine light on the issue.

You’ll find the full report here (PDF), but the quick version is: North Carolinans could see $26 million in energy savings annually if the state were to add 400 megawatts (MW) of wholesale solar and 100 MW of distributed solar generation. The study also found that the benefits of solar exceed costs by 30 to 40 percent in North Carolina. In other words, solar power produced when and where it’s needed most is tremendously valuable to North Carolina’s grid and the families and businesses it serves. We hope this data will be put to use for good solar policy decision-making

Ralph Thompson, Chairman of the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance, pointed out: ”This study confirms what we are experiencing every day as more and more solar projects are being developed in North Carolina with benefits flowing to local communities.”

In addition to grid benefits, solar delivers plenty of economic, environmental and public health benefits to North Carolina. Throughout the state there are currently more than 121 solar companies whose employees provide a wide variety of solar products and services from manufacturing to installation and maintenance. North Carolina ranks 5th in the country in installed solar capacity, with 322 MW – enough solar energy to power 30,600 homes.

Good folk fighting the good fight in the Southeast. Keep it up y’all!

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

1 Comment

  1. Good job, Southeast.

    Even though, generally speaking, electric rates are cheaper in the Southeast, it’s good to see more and more people switching over to solar.

    It’s only when the rates start to seriously impact their pocketbooks is when see people switching to solar in droves.

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