Georgia Increases Solar Commitment Through New Community Solar Program and Utility Expansion

Good news from Georgia today where the Public Service Commission (PSC) just voted to introduce a new community solar pilot program and continue to expand utility scale solar – although there was a missed opportunity to also expand rooftop solar options for consumers in the state.

Georgia Tech solar panels with Atlanta in Background

Georgia has been a huge success story for utility-scale solar, as the Commission has encouraged Georgia Power to take advantage of falling solar costs to save money for all of its ratepayers. Today’s vote shows that Georgia continues to lead the way on market-based approaches that maximize solar growth without upward pressure on customers’ rates.

Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald stood out in today’s vote for his bold motion that sought to  expand Georgia Power’s solar programs into new markets, including rooftop solar and community solar. Although the motion was defeated, it identified important policy opportunities to bolster Georgia’s solar development with a healthier, more diverse market that offers more options for customers to go solar.

In a 4-1 vote, the Commission also approved a 3 MW community solar pilot program motion introduced by Commissioner Tim Echols. If designed properly, a utility community solar program can expand solar access to new customers who can’t take advantage of rooftop solar and serve as a model for larger programs in the state.

“The strongest solar markets are the ones that enable diverse participation and diverse ownership,” said  Scott Thomasson, program director of new markets for Vote Solar. “While Commissioner McDonald’s motion to foster that diverse participation didn’t get the support it needed, the addition of a community solar program and the overall outcome of today’s vote are strong measures to keep Georgia’s solar market growing.”

The final IRP approved today, as amended by Georgia Power’s settlement stipulation, includes the following new solar programs:

  • 1,050 MW of new utility-scale renewables from a new “Renewable Energy Development Initiative” (REDI), to be procured from third-party developers in two competitive RFP processes: 525 MW with in-service dates of 2018-2019, and 525 MW with in-service dates of 2020-2021.
  • 100 MW of distributed renewable generation up to 3 MW in size, procured under buy-all-sell-all contracts through a competitive RFP process with in-service dates of 2018-2019.
  • 50 MW of customer-sited distributed generation, up to 3 MW in size but not more than 125% of a customer’s peak demand, procured under buy-all-sell-all contracts and paid an avoided cost rate to be calculated by Georgia Power, with in-service dates of 2018-2019.
  • 200 MW of Georgia Power self-build solar projects to serve military bases, or up to 75 MW other non-military projects, including a 3 MW community solar pilot program.
  • Up to 200 MW of solar or other renewables for a new “Commercial and Industrial Program” to serve large customers, with details to be determined and approved later by the PSC.
  • A new “Simple Solar” program that allows all customers, residential as well as commercial and industrial, to purchase renewable energy credits from solar resources owned or purchased by Georgia Power at a price of 1 cent/kWH. This replaces Georgia Power’s previous premium pricing tariff known as the “Green Energy” program.

The key advocates working to grow Georgia’s solar programs through today’s motions include Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association, Southface Institute, Southern Environmental Law Center, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, and the Georgia Large-Scale Solar Association.

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