Georgia Power hauled over coals for lack of solar

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A broad coalition of consumers, environmentalists and business leaders in the state of Georgia are demanding that electric utility Georgia Power increase its use of renewable energy, particularly solar.

The Georgia Public Service Commission last year approved a Georgia Power plan to acquire up to 210 MW of solar capacity through long-term purchase power agreements with Georgia Power customers and solar developers in addition to the company’s existing solar resources, including research and demonstration projects and a 50 MW large scale solar program already in place.

Nevertheless, the utility is under pressure to expand its solar resources.

State utility regulators heard testimony Tuesday on Georgia Power’s energy plans, which must be submitted for review every three years.

Solar power backers present at the hearing hauled Georgia Power over the coals for not including new forms of solar energy in its planning, saying consumers would save money and breathe cleaner air if the company boosted its solar output and other renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs.

According to an AP report, the utility is currently building two nuclear reactors in the state and also retiring 15 fossil fuel plants considered economically obsolete.

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While Georgia Power is expected to buy 270 MW from new programs, the company remains reticent about expanding renewable energy projects, according to the AP report, which points out that Tom Fanning, CEO of Georgia Power parent company Southern Co., “has repeatedly said he views renewable energy as a niche energy source, not a main source.”

Robert Green, the president and CEO of Georgia Solar Utilities, asked regulators to force Georgia Power to add 500 MW of solar capacity to its system.

Georgia Power’s plan "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, according to AP.

While Georgia has very strong solar potential — ranking fifth in the nation, state law has made it illegal for Georgia residents to participate in power purchase agreements, a financing mechanism that has been crucial to the growth of the solar industry in other states.

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