The solar industry in Georgia is pushing a power monopoly to expand the use of solar energy as it plans to meet the state’s electricity needs in the next two decades. Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power must submit new plans every three years; advocates for the state’s solar power industry and tea party leaders fault Georgia Power for not including new forms of solar energy in its planning. “We think solar is the way to go,” Debbie Dooley, a coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, told the elected members of the Public Service Commission. The utility is retiring 15 fossil fuel plants that are viewed as economically obsolete, in some cases because it would be too expensive to equip them to comply with more stringent environmental rules. After displaying a new program, Georgia Power officials expect they will have agreements to buy 270 megawatts of solar power in the state.
However the electric utility still remains cautious of the more widespread use of renewable energy sources; Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning has said that he views renewable energy as a niche energy source, rather than a main one. A significant expansion of solar power could potentially threaten the business model in Georgia in which electric monopolies are guaranteed a profit under law when they spend money to build, maintain and run the infrastructure that creates electricity. Karl Rabago, a consultant for the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association, said in written testimony referring to traditional power plants, “These projects, if successful, tend to maximize profits at the expense of the lowest cost for customers.” While the utility does use solar energy, its programs are limited. Robert Green, the president and CEO of Georgia Solar Utilities, which tried unsuccessfully to start a solar utility, asked regulators to force Georgia Power to add 500 megawatts of solar capacity to its system. Georgia Power’s plan, “which proposes no new solar capacity for the next 20 years, harms ratepayers and the people of Georgia by ignoring the new realities of solar energy in our state,” Green said in written testimony.
Source: Solar industry pushes for more use in Ga. by Ray Henry, May 22, 2013