- The Georgia House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill that would allow for third party ownership (TPO) of rooftop solar systems in the state. HB 57: The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015 passed Monday morning with 165 votes in favor and none opposed.
- The measure, Utility Dive has reported, represents a major compromise between the state's utilities and solar installers. The utilities agreed to accept TPO — which lowers financial barriers to entry would-be solar customers — in exchange for limits on solar installment size and energy output.
- The legislation now moves on to the Georgia Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities, and backers expect the full chamber to pass the bill swiftly, barring any unforeseen opposition. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.
HB 57, the brainchild of Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R), was delayed for months while stakeholders pounded out the details of the compromise, but now the bill is moving swiftly through the Georgia legislature. Not a single representative in the GOP-led state house voted against the measure, a major example of conservative efforts to boost solar power.
"My legislation makes it clear that Georgia energy customers should be allowed to access the best energy financing solutions the free market has to offer,” Rep. Dudgeon said in a press release from the advocacy Georgians for Solar Freedom. “I believe individuals and businesses can make their own decisions about controlling their energy costs with solar technology.”
Solar installers support the bill despite that it would limit the size of residential solar arrays to 10 KW, and prohibit commercial customers from generating more than 125% of their total energy demand from solar. Those concessions, the installer community says, were necessary to get the state's utilities — led by Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power — to throw their significant political clout behind the bill.
Georgians for Solar Freedom, a Republican-led group founded to boost the solar industry in the state, expects HB 57 to clear the state senate without significant issues.
"The way that the language is structured, we’re hoping the same success we had on the house side will be exhibited on the senate side," Georgians for Solar Freedom Executive Director Craig Briscoe told Utility Dive.
Greentech Media estimated that third party ownership agreements accounted for more than two-thirds of residential solar power capacity in 2014, although that number is slated to decline with the advent of new loan offerings from installers. 24 states, plus DC and Puerto Rico, allow for TPO, according to DSIRE.
Gov. Deal has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill. The governor's communication staff told Utility Dive they do not comment on pending legislation.