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Georgia Commissioner Wants More Renewable Energy

Posted on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 at 10:15 pm by Solar Energy USA
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Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, longtime Georgia solar energy enthusiast, said today that he would like to see utility providers like Georgia Power utilize more solar energy as a renewable power source.  His statement comes at a time when large utilities like Southern Company are being asked to make their traditional power plants, mainly coal-fired power plants, healthier towards humans through cleaner air emissions. The power companies argue that retrofitting the coal-plants to be cleaner, at this point in time, would likely result in an increased cost of power rate to all customers.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner McDonald is encouraging a new mandate on power companies to get a larger percentage of their fuel from alternative sources like solar power. Opponents argue that, this mandate too, will likely result in customers paying more for power.

In the solar field, the name of what McDonald is pushing Georgia to adopt is known as a “Renewable Portfolio Standard” or RPS. Georgia would be one of the 30th state in America to adopt a renewable energy standard, or minimum, and the 1st in the southeast.

According to the AJC, Greg Chafee, chairman of Morris, Manning & Martin’s green industry practice, said, “The industry supports public policy changes that does make Georgia more competitive for solar investment.” Compare Georgia’s current solar practices to a state like North Carolina or Tennessee, where much more solar investment has sprung up as a result of incentives from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a prominent power provider, and you quickly see that Georgia’s current solar policies are not competitive. The TVA is one of the solar-friendliest power providers in the southeast with it’s Generation Partner Program which pays solar power operators $1,000 plus 12 cents above the base rate for purchasing renewable energy produced through their solar panels. Most utilities in Georgia, like Georgia Power, will only buy solar energy back at their “avoided cost” which is normally only 7 or 8 cents.

“Historically this [PSC] commission has taken a position that a ‘renewable portfolio standard’ is a choice that has not been right for Georgia,” said PSC Chairman Stan Wise, a Republican, saing he’s concerned about prices and the reliability of alternative energy sources.

Below is a national RPS map showing which states do not currently have a renewable energy portfolio in place.

rps-state-map_0

Power rates for all Georgia Power customers went up recently to cover the cost of new nuclear power plants that are being built, the first in 20 years. The average Georgia resident pays 12.5 cents for power, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWhs), lower than the national average. In California, residents who use the most power can pay up to 44 cents per kWh. Georgia residents will see a 10% rise in power rates in 2012 followed by another 10% in 2013, again, thanks to the new nuclear power plant. Plant Vogtle (units 3 and 4) will not be operational for many years to come (2016 and 2017).

According to the Georgia Power website, “Increased demand for energy is driving the need for new baseload capacity. The population of the southeastern United States continues to expand rapidly, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, 40 percent of the U.S. population will live in the Southeast by 2030. The state of Georgia alone is expected to grow by 4 million people by 2030. During the next 15 years, electrical demand on the Georgia Power system is projected to grow 30 percent.”

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