Rooftop solar in Georgia got a boost recently when the state legislature passed a new law permitting homeowners to lease solar energy systems from companies who sell the electricity generated back to utility companies. Previous restrictions meant people who wanted a residential solar power system often had to pay the costs of the materials and installation up front.
The old law was designed to protect utility companies from competition but the advent of affordable solar energy systems has changed the rules for everyone. Georgia has now joined 20 other states with enabling legislation for home solar installations.
“This changes everything,” said Julie Hairston, spokeswoman for the non-profit Georgia Solar Energy Association. “It will create jobs, promote clean energy and investment across the state.”
Previous bills in the legislature were defeated at the request of Georgia’s utility companies. But the new law has provisions that address the concerns of the utilities. For one thing, the electricity generated has to be for the homeowner’s personal use.
Secondly, their are limits on how much electricity can be fed back into the grid by each system during a year. John Kraft, a spokesman for Georgia Power, told Reuters that Georgia Power was concerned that unrestricted home solar power panels could drive up the cost of electricity for those without solar energy.
That is the nub of the controversy swirling around several proposals by utility companies across the country to add surcharges to the utility bills of those who install solar panels on their homes. The rationale behind these solar demand charges is that solar customers are not paying their fair share to maintain existing grid infrastructure.
But that calculus always conveniently fails to allocate any monetary benefit to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions derived by using electricity from renewable sources rather than from burning fossil fuels.
Photo: Georgia Power