"Guest Editorial" on HB 657

Solar Offers Opportunity to Grow Georgia Economy

By Representatives Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville), Tom Kirby (R-Loganville), Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Gloria Frazier (D-Hephzibah), and Carol Fullerton (D-Albany)

If you could check a box on your monthly electric bill that could save you extra money, would you?

You may soon have the chance, thanks to a new bill we introduced the last week of the 2013 Legislative Session: the Rural Georgia Economic Recovery and Solar Resource Act of 2014, also known as HB 657.

The bill creates a 100% voluntary program for Georgia Power customers to “sign up for solar,” even those who can’t install solar themselves.

Customers simply choose to use more solar energy, and they will see their rates reduced over time because the sun never sends a bill for fuel. 

Times have changed for solar in Georgia. For years, as solar technologies improved and prices fell, we have watched opportunities for solar energy grow in our state. Today, affordable home-grown solar is ready for harvest. 

Solar energy is an abundant natural resource we can no longer afford to ignore. The untapped energy that falls on Georgia every year in the form of sunlight is monetarily equivalent to over 3.1 billion barrels of oil. And Georgia has the fifth-highest potential of any state in the country to produce solar energy for direct use and third-best for selling to neighboring states. Unfortunately, we still rank only 38th nationwide in solar installations. Georgia can do better. And with this bill, we will.

Instead of waiting for Georgia Power to decide when and where to add new solar to our energy mix, we think it’s time to let Georgians decide for themselves. Our bill gives you a choice to use solar energy produced by a new statewide community solar provider, who will deliver solar energy to Georgia Power that would get credited to your bill. The solar provider will have to keep prices low to earn your business, but customers will reap the benefits from the money sunlight saves over time while other fuel energy prices continue to rise.

HB 657 provides new options for all Georgians without taking away any existing rights. Everyone will have the same rights and opportunities in the solar market that they have now, including homeowners who want their own rooftop solar system or companies who want to install their own solar arrays.

The bill offers new possibilities to bring forward ideas for local solar projects.  Regardless of whether a ratepayer is in an apartment, condo or farm with plenty of land for solar arrays, HB 657 ensures all of Georgia’s citizens can share equally in the benefits of Georgia’s abundant solar energy.

Empowering customers to check a box for the kind of power they want to use lets the market decide how much solar we need – not the special interests of an investor-owned utility. All of this is without new government subsidies or mandates. More choice means more competition, more innovation and lower energy rates over time. It also means millions of dollars in investment and much-needed jobs in Georgia’s sun-drenched rural communities.

We look forward to the conversation that we’ll be having in town halls across our state in the near future about the important role solar energy can play in Georgia’s future.