GA Power alters the solar space in Georgia

On Tuesday, November 20, 2012 the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) approved Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI), a plan to add 210 MW to the utility’s solar portfolio over the next two years.  Each year, the company will acquire 60 MW of projects between 1-20 MW through a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) program.  An additional 90 MW, or 45 MW per year, will be acquired under a Distributed Scale Program for small-to-medium scale projects of 1 kW to 1MW, as early as Q1 of 2013.  Eligible projects will be considered in 2013 and 2014 and must be commercially operational by 2015 through 2016.  Georgia Power has 5.4 MW of solar through its subscriber based Green Energy program, and has acquired 49 MW through its 2015 Large Scale Solar program.

In the past, Georgia Power’s parent, Southern Company, has teamed up with Turner Renewable Energy and invested in commercial-scale solar projects in the Southwest.  However, within Georgia, solar investment has been minimal.  But now that technological advances and other factors have brought down the price of solar, the company is ready to enter the solar market on a more local level.

Because the RFP will feature competitive, bid-in pricing instead of pre-determined, set pricing, it is not clear to what extent the measure will create a vibrant commercial solar market in Georgia.  However, the 20MW and 1MW maximum system size limits guarantee small and medium-scale developers and projects will have a chance to compete.

While this is a big step in the right direction, other stakeholders are leading efforts to expand regulations even further to accommodate solar development.  Currently, solar companies can install solar power, but they must sell the electricity produced to Georgia Power.  Georgia’s Territorial Electric Service Act gives utilities exclusive territorial boundaries to provide electricity.  Moreover, Georgia Public Service Commission has been reluctant to include solar in its energy mix requirements because they view it as an “intermittent resource.”

Georgia Solar Utilities (GaSU), a solar start-up in Macon, GA, plans on directly challenging the status quo through the Georgia legislature in 2013. GaSU has asked the Georgia legislature to grant them the same privileges as Georgia Power in the solar space.  As of Tuesday, November 20th, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to allow new solar companies to sell solar power. In order for such a change to take effect, GA state law would have to be revised.

Regardless of the outcome of the challenge, Georgia Powers’ goal of developing 210 MW over the next two years gives it ownership of the largest voluntarily developed solar portfolio from an investor-owned utility.  Sol Systems will continue tracking this program and finding out more information about opportunities for solar developers.

About Sol Systems

Sol Systems is a solar finance firm and a leader in financial innovation in the renewable energy industry. Since its inception in 2008, Sol Systems has partnered with 350 solar installers and developers to bring over 3,000 solar projects from conception to completion by offering innovative financing solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale projects.

Sol Systems’ financing programs catalyze investments for a broad set of solar projects by simplifying their origination, diligence, and financing processes. Developers seeking financing for solar projects can access over $2.5 billion in capital through the Sol Systems investor network.

In addition to providing financing, Sol Systems also offers project due diligence, deal structuring, and asset management services – all designed to reduce overhead and transaction costs and quicken project development timelines.

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