Why isn’t there more solar in Georgia? This question is asked many times of solar industry professionals.  Quite obviously, sun, land and labor are in abundant supply.  Other states with substantially less of all three of these resources have clean energy industries that are thriving, so what’s the problem? The answer may be, “legislation”, but more rightly the answer is “money”.

Powerful lobbyists from the states’ utility industry, with the means to entertain, feed and contribute to campaigns of legislators hold the keys to opening up Georgia’s electric grid to the supply of renewable energy resources.   Georgia is one of 3 states that has no cap on lobbyist’s gifts, and it does not take a big leap of faith to understand that solar industry voices with rational economic arguments are being drowned out by a chorus of deep-pocketed ” utility ambassadors” waiting with a family vacation to Europe, tickets to the big game, or a nice dinner at the Palm.  The solar industry has but four lobbyists in Georgia, while the utility lobbyists number in the 90’s.  In less than 18 days, Georgia Power lobbyists have spent nearly $5,000 on dinners alone.  The solar industry has spent zero.

The Marietta Daily Journal rightly points out, in an editorial today,  that a few brave legislators have attempted to rise above the politics of greed by supporting the joint effort of Common Cause and the Georgia Tea Party to create limits on lobbyist gifts.  It asks the Speaker of the House, David Ralston to join his party in favor of the legislation proposed by Representatives Tommy Smith and Ellis Black on House Bill 798.  Currently that bill is stalled, owing, in no small part, to the type of largesse that has been bestowed on the Speaker. A similar bill, SB391 now working its way through the Senate, backed by Josh McKoon, Steve Gooch and others, may make better progress.

Until the actual clean energy installers, manufacturers and suppliers along with the general public show up and stand up for real ethics reform,  the real-world economic stories of the solar industry, will be silent in the capitol.