Southern hospitality: Georgia and Florida reconsider solar lease bans

The bill is the result of a compromise between Southern Company, the state’s largest investor-owned utility, local electric co-ops, distributed solar companies and other stakeholders. The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015 would allow third-party ownership for residential systems up to 10 kW and would cap eligible commercial systems at 125% or a site’s power use.

Representative Mike Dudgeon, a Republican, introduced the bill two weeks ago.

In a January 26 research note to clients, equity research analysts at Raymond James pointed to the bill’s potential to create new leasing opportunities in Georgia’s nascent market for rooftop solar.

With a population of more than 10 million people and 2.1 million single-family homes, “we estimate the addressable market for residential PV at approximately 10.5 GW,” wrote analysts Pavel Molchanov and Carlos Newall. “The addressable market for commercial systems is more difficult to quantify – there is too much variability between different system sizes – but just the residential opportunity alone is clearly massive.”

The bill, if signed into law, could benefit leasing specialist SolarCity, the largest U.S. residential PV installer, according to Raymond James.

Also two weeks ago, an alliance of business groups and solar advocates in neighboring Florida introduced an initiative to allow Floridians to vote on third-party financing in the Sunshine State. The campaign Floridians for Solar Choice seeks to collect enough signatures to put the initiative on the 2016 ballot.

Georgia and Florida are two of only five states in the country that explicitly forbid third-party solar financing models and restrict direct electricity sales to utilities only.