Updated: Georgia Power moving into rooftop solar market this summer
- When Georgia’s new Solar Power Free Market Financing Act goes into effect July 1, Georgia Power, the state's dominant electricity provider and subsidiary of Southern Co., will take a new interest in the rooftop solar business, EnergyWire reports.
- The Act legalizes third party ownership of residential solar, the financing plan that has boosted growth in other states. Southern CEO Thomas Fanning told the company's annual shareholder meeting on Thursday that Georgia Power will begin offering customers rooftop solar.
- The move into the residential solar market is another signal the once coal-dependent Southern Company and its subsidiaries in Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama are becoming comfortable with renewables in their portfolio.
"If somebody wants to buy distributed generation, I want to sell it to 'em," Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning recently told EnergyWire.
The Free Market Financing Act does does not address the subject of whether Georgia Power could rate base its solar investments, according to Smith, Gambrell & Russell Sustainable Practice Head Steve O’Day.
There is some ambiguity on the subject of whether Georgia Power, as a regulated utility, could compete in the unregulated solar installation market and rate base rooftop solar investments. EnergyWire reports that the new TPO law "allows for the state's regulated, municipal and electric cooperative utilities to enter the [rooftop solar] market."
But O'Day, a veteran Georgia energy lawyer, told Utility Dive that Georgia Power would be prohibited from competing in the rooftop solar market, even with the passage of the Free Market Financing Act. So, the likelihood is that Southern Company will use Southern Power, an unregulated subsidiary, to compete in the Georgia solar market, O’Day explained.
Fanning told EnergyWire after its annual shareholder meeting on May 27 that Georgia Power is still working out the details of their porgram, like who will finance the panels and whether customers will lease or own them. But, he assured the publication, if a customer calls Georgia Power after July 1 and asks for solar panels, "we'll get them up there," he said.
Southern Power owns 970 MW of renewables capacity that is either in operation or development, including seven solar projects in partnership with Turner Renewable Energy and one solar project in partnership with First Solar.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect ambiguity on the subject of whether Georgia Power, as a regulated utility, would be allowed to compete in the solar installation market.