An excellent post from the Atlanta Business Chronicle Blog “RealTalk” about the State of Georgia’s current energy laws and how you can help make a change.
In an economy with record unemployment, Georgia has turned down billions of dollars in federal grants intended to stimulate investment in renewable energy in the past 12 months. Georgia continues to lag behind other states (and the world) when it comes to renewable energy.
It was recently reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://www.ajc.com/business/georgia-power-to-double-595617.html ) that “Georgia Power is doubling the amount of solar energy it will buy from independent producers.” Unfortunately, doubling a ludicrously low number is more an exercise in green-washing than any real progress. Especially given glaring facts such as the fact that there is literally 10 times more solar energy installed in DeSoto County Florida (25 Megawatts) than the entire state of Georgia).
While Reznick Group and numerous other companies and professional organizations like the Georgia Solar Energy Association continue to applaud this change in stance by the nation’s most obstinate power company, such changes in heart are unfortunately essentially cosmetic. The new stance by the power company is truly only modestly helpful news for real estate, and then only on the very small scale as compared to other southern states. The latest change in corporate policy by the public utility is unfortunately very, very limited (by design) and does not, indeed cannot, apply to the required larger commercial and utility scale solar projects that big-box companies are preferring to do in other states like North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and other southern states. So Georgia is still at the back of the line in relative comparison.
Yet Georgia’s economy cannot afford to lose out on large commercial and utility scale solar and biomass projects, which continue to select other southeastern states for their base of operations. Why? It’s because Georgia state law does not support the renewable energy electrical sales industry and instead supports fossil and nuclear fuels. Georgia only dabbles in biomass and landfill gas to serve the purposes of corporate marketing. Hyrdo power is maxed out.
So, as long as Georgia state law continues to make the sale of renewable energy illegal between non-utilities, and as long as we allow the Georgia Territorial Electrical Services Act to be interpreted as making the sale of renewable electricity illegal in Georgia, then we and Georgia are losers.
To date, and largely because such sales of electricity are alleged to be illegal, of the over five billion dollars in federal renewable energy grants made by the U.S. Treasury, only a paltry $600,000+ has found its way to Georgia.
It is therefore absolutely clear that Georgia’s laws on renewable energy are directly harming both the statewide economy and capital investment in Georgia.
This is specifically because such laws directly prevent large scale real estate from purchasing commercial scale solar energy from solar energy companies, the operating costs of real estate in Georgia are in many cases being inflated and subjected to ever increasing electrical rates. The use of solar power is a near ideal way for real estate owners to fix their price of electricity for decades at a time. Yet in Georgia, this is not happening largely because of the protection given public utilities by the state: a protection that 90 percent of the other U.S. States refuse to grant. All when solar power is declining in price more rapidly than ever before and when federal tax credits and grant will cover at least 40 percent of your solar capital costs.
Clearly, this must change in the next legislative session. But the power lobby is strong. They have so far mis-educated Georgia’s elected officials to believe that we don’t have enough sun in Georgia to run a solar power. But the truth is that renewable energy works. Georgia Power now says so publicly. Finally. And the Georgia Public Services Commission Chairman also says so publicly. So it’s time for us to re-educate our elected officials with the truth.
While Georgia Power’s recent news moved the needle in the right direction, we are still forced to look forward to the day when Georgia’s energy policy allows this state to do commercial and utility-scale solar projects equal in size to the ones currently being done in neighboring states and in other regions of the United States.
So, as you talk with the candidates for Governor, and your other elected officials during this election time, make sure you tell each of them that you expect them to clarify the language in the Georgia Territorial Electrical Services an make it clear that the state of Georgia encourages the sale of renewable electricity, by private contract, between a buyer and a seller, neither of which is required to be a public utility, municipal utility or EMC. Making that one small change will open up a flood of capital investment for the state, improve opportunities for the real estate sector, improve cash flows and operating savings, and take Georgia into the 21st century, rather than the 20th, which is where we are stuck now. While you are at it, ask your elected officials to also boost the system size restrictions in the Georgia Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act of 2001. If we tweak those two state laws, our world, and our state economy, will show signs of immediate improvement, in the form of increased capital investment, lower utility costs, reduced water usage and less air and water pollution.
There is really no reason not to. Unless of course, you prefer to live in the past and let the world slip by.
Wes Hudson is co-managing principal of Reznick Group’s Atlanta office.