US: SEIA chief says Georgia Power deal is not enough

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Georgia Power – a subsidiary of U.S. giant Southern Company, which serves 2.4 million customers across Georgia – has launched a utility-scale program and a smaller distributed scale commitment over the next three years. However, Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO says the initiative alone is not enough.

"We are encouraged by the news that Georgia Power has taken a first step towards realizing Georgia’s vast potential for solar energy that to date has gone largely untapped," said Resch. He added that Georgia Power’s initiative demonstrates that solar is a trusted and reliable energy source and has an important role in achieving fuel source diversity.

However, more needs to be done for Georgia to become a true leader in solar and to build a sustainable solar market in the state. Important policy decisions lie ahead. It’s vital that the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) allow both centralized and distributed solar generation to fulfill a larger role in the state’s energy mix.

The initiative announced today offers a very limited program for homeowners and business owners to install solar on their own roofs. Distributed solar must be allowed to grow at a rate higher than 10 MW per year in order to create a truly sustainable market and jobs across the state.

"In addition, the state needs competitive rules and standards for connecting to the grid as well as policies to allow for other solar providers to participate in the market," he said. Through its Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI), 60 MW per year will be purchased, via a request for proposal program, from projects ranging in size from 1 to 20 MW, starting in 2013. Successful projects will have to be operating in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

On top of that commitment, up to 10 MW per year extra will come from small (less than 100 kW) and medium-sized (100-1,000 kW) projects. "We believe the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative will encourage new opportunities for solar development in our state and catapult us to the forefront of this clean, safe energy technology," said Georgia Power President and CEO Paul Bowers.

"This initiative builds upon our record of maintaining not only one of the nation´s safest and most reliable electric systems at rates below the national average, but one of the most innovative as well. We will continue to build a diverse generation portfolio that utilizes the most cost effective and advanced technologies to benefit our customers."

Georgia Power already boasts a solar capacity of 50 MW through its large-scale solar program, as well as research and demonstration projects and the utility recently launched a solar energy expert initiative and website for customers.

The GPASI was developed with the Georgia Public Service Commission and will be the largest voluntarily developed solar portfolio by an investor-owned utility.