Other states, even New Jersey and far-north Michigan, are beating Georgia to solar jobs. Why isn’t sunny Georgia leading in one of the fastest-growing industries in the country that is deploying rural jobs everywhere else? Hint: who’s holding a shareholder meeting this month?
Carin Hall wrote for energydigital 13 May 2013, Solar Jobs Outnumber Texas Ranchers and US Coal Miners: New statistics show that solar is one of the fastest growing industries in the US, creating thousands of jobs across the country
There are now more solar energy workers in the state of Texas than there are ranchers, according to solar research group The Solar Foundation.
The group’s data mapping out solar jobs across the nation also showed that there are more solar jobs in California than actors, and more solar workers than coal miners nationwide. Sunny states like California and Arizona topped the list. Wyoming came in last, with just 50 workers, while Utah showed a mere 290 solar workers despite being one of the country’s sunniest states.
Even the states with less sunshine like New Jersey and Michigan showed a high number of solar jobs—thanks to favorable tax and regulatory policies that help attract developers to cope with high electricity prices.
New Jersey is #9 and Michigan is #15 according to The Solar Foundation’s map of State Solar Jobs. Where’s Georgia? Number 41 in solar jobs per capita. Yet Michigan is #47 by maximum solar resource and New Jersey is #36, while Georgia is #18: much sunnier than those northern states. Why is Georgia so far behind?
LEGAL STATUS OF THIRD-PARTY OWNERSHIP: NOT ALLOWED
Because of Georgia’s 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act. That’s why the half a billion dollars Goldman Sachs made available to SolarCity won’t bring any of those 110 MW to Georgia or any of those jobs.
NET METERING POLICY GRADE: F
California uses net metering for more megawatts and jobs, but you can’t get that in Georgia.
INTERCONNECTION POLICY GRADE: N/A
Well, Georgia does require your (one and only pre-determined for you by that 1973 law) electric utility to interconnect your solar installation and to buy your excess power. However, the utility sets the price it will pay you, often at their idea of an avoided power generation rate (what they would have to pay to generate the same amount of power), and that of course is much lower than you pay them. And you can’t install a system bigger than 10 KW for residential or 100 KW for business. SB 51 would have fixed that last, but it didn’t pass. Plus Georgia’s idea of “net metering” is not the same as California’s idea. In Georgia you get two meter registers: one for what you pay the power company, and one for what they pay you, settled up at the end of the month.
RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARD (RPS) TARGET: N/A
Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)? HB 503 would have done that, but it didn’t pass.
What’s Georgia missing out on because of its backward laws and policies?
The study also showed that almost half of solar jobs involve installing solar panels, paying around $18 and hour ($38,000 a year), which is higher than the median national wage of $34,750, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That’s $18/hour jobs we could have in rural Georgia, where we need them most, also reducing the ridiculous $200/month and up electric bills many poor south Georgia rural residents pay.
What’s holding us back? Georgia Power and Southern Company. As Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers put it:
Renewable (energy sources are) going to have a sliver. Is it going to be 2 or 4 percent? That’s yet to be determined.
That’s right, while states far to the north of us with much less sun reap solar jobs and solar rapidly outgrows every other power source, Georgia Power and its parent the Southern Company aren’t even trying to play in the Super Bowl of distributed energy.
How can they get away with that? Isn’t Georgia Power a regulated public utility? Sure, in the most corrupt state in the country, number 50 out of 50. Why does Georgia get an integrity grade of F? Well, which companies would have an interest in blocking bills like HB 503 and SB 51 so they can keep raking in profits on boondoggles like the 19-month-late and billion-dollars-over-budget Plant Vogtle nukes? Could it be Georgia Power and the Southern Company?
Maybe you’d like to give the Southern Company a piece of your mind about that. You don’t even have to attend the 22 May stockholder meeting. You can send SO CEO Thomas A. Fanning a message online the Sierra Club way.