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Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 12:32pm

Solar Industry To Push Lawmakers

Georgia’s solar industry says an old state law is stifling Georgians’ access to the energy resource. And a push is on to get lawmakers to change it.

Last month, internet company Google announced tens of millions of new dollars investment into solar installation companies. But ‘third party’ solar energy sales to consumers aren’t possible in Georgia.

The state’s 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act prohibits anyone from selling power—except to a utility. Utility companies say it’s a vital law to protect their infrastructure investment and ensure customer protection.

But Pete Marte says it’s an outdated law that predates new technologies in renewable energy. The head of ‘Hannah Solar’ says customers shouldn’t be tied to paying fees that support existing utility infrastructure:

“If I could pay 13 dollars for solar, or 13 dollars for nuclear, or 13 dollars extra for coal, and I could make that choice myself, I’d feel better about paying the 13 dollars.”

But Lynn Wallace of Georgia Power says the current law protects consumers and costs they pay. If some customers leave for third party suppliers, those remaining with a utility have to shoulder more of infrastructure maintenance costs.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to impact our ratepayers. We don’t want that risk being shifted to customers who aren’t generating solar, either on their homes or their businesses.”

Wallace says the utility supports solar projects in which people with solar panels sell the energy to the utility.

Marte acknowledges an uphill battle for the solar industry in a push of lawmakers to change the law next legislative session.