Georgia Senate unanimously approves solar financing bill
- The Georgia Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would allow third-party ownership (TPO) of rooftop solar in the state. The bill, HB 57, now moves on to the governor, who has not publicly indicated his position on the proposal.
- As Utility Dive has reported, the Solar Power Free Market Financing Act represents a major compromise between the state's utilities and solar installers. Utilities, led by Georgia Power, agreed to accept third-party ownership of solar — which lowers financial barriers to entry for would-be solar customers — in exchange for limits on solar installment size and energy output.
- Last month, the Georgia House of Representatives also passed HB 57 unanimously. Solar advocates in the state have waited for years for such a compromise, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
The utility-solar compromise that formed the winning coalition for HB 57 was the brainchild of state Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R), who authored the bill and brought the two sides to the table. Now, after months of pounding out details, the measure to authorize TPO and boost solar in the state has passed both houses without a single vote against it.
"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 February press release from advocacy group Georgians for Solar Freedom after his bill passed the house. “I believe individuals and businesses can make their own decisions about controlling their energy costs with solar technology.”
Georgia solar installers signed onto the compromise despite the fact that HB 57 limits the size of residential solar arrays to 10 KW, and prohibits commercial customers from generating more than 125% of their total energy demand from solar. The concessions, the solar community says, were necessary to get the state's utilities to throw their significant political clout behind the bill.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has not yet indicated whether he supports the measure. His office told Utility Dive in February that they do not comment on pending legislation. But given its unanimous and veto-proof support in both houses, all indications are that Deal will sign HB 57 into law, a spokesperson for Georgians for Solar Freedom said.
Greentech Media estimated that third party ownership agreements accounted for more than two-thirds of residential solar power capacity in 2014. However, TPO's share of the residential solar market is expected to decline as prices fall and installers come out with new loan offerings. 24 states, plus DC and Puerto Rico, allow for TPO, according to DSIRE.
- Atlanta Journal Constitution Georgia solar bill headed to governor
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