Selling Solar in the South
10 Friday Feb 2012
No tags :(
Legislatures across the south may be sounding a collective “ho-hum” about various attempts to modify utility regulations to favor renewable energy, but the chorus of advocates are getting louder.
The economic development story is playing out across southern Georgia in particular, where land is cheap, labor is affordable and sun is plentiful. Peak summer energy rates can soar as high as $1.00 per Kwh, and the story that “solar is not cost-competitive”, just doesn’t wash-especially at 2pm on a hot August day.
In Georgia, most recently, several members of the state’s Economic Development Committee have been hearing from solar installers who have either had to rely on federal grants for energy projects on rural farms (REAP) or move jobs out of state, to stay in business, because Power Purchase Agreements- the right to sell excess power to a third party- are under a “cloud” of uncertainty. State law limits residential solar systems to 10KW in size and commercial systems are limited to 100KW, which is a drop in the bucket when you consider Georgia Power produces a generating capacity in excess of 30,000,000 KW. With those limits, large solar installers and manufacturers have neither the incentive nor the desire to weigh-in on local politics.
Under the Gold Dome, where job growth is their number 1 concern, it seems that while billions in private investment in renewable energy are going to places like North Carolina, New Jersey, and Texas, no big projects are being attracted to Georgia, precisely because there is not a free and open market for energy.
Local Chambers of Commerce are recognizing the potential of long term job growth through renewable energy, and despite the lingering doubts brought on by the Solyndra flame out, renewable energy enjoys better than an 80% approval rating across America. While energy subsidies may carry a negative rating, the prospect of a free and open market for energy by allowing for Public-Private partnerships, make the capitalist heart sing.
In Georgia, a petition to clarify the legality of Power Purchase Agreements is circulating now hoping to get 10,000 signatures. More than one bill is in draft version now and will be making it’s way to the clerk’s office in the Republican-led House & Senate this session.
Recently Greenpeace introduced their Global Green IT Rankings utilizing a methodology which takes into account the company’s “political advocacy” efforts and chiding some for engaging in negative lobbying or taking a passive approach. Business, in the end will have to lead the way.