You won’t have to mortgage the farm to install solar power if this bill passes, because you’ll be able to get reasonable financing.
Update 2015-02-07: HB 57 was favorably reported out of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee 28 January 2015, first time such a bill has ever cleared that hurdle.
The actual solar leasing bill in the Georgia House as of 14 January 2015 is HB 57 “…to provide for financing of solar technology by retail electric customers for the generation of electric energy to be used on and by property owned or occupied by such customers or to be fed back to the electric service provider”, aka the “Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015.” It includes the same old generation limits from the 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act (10 Megawatts per individual and 100 MW per company), but it blows a huge hole in the prohibition on power purchase agreements (PPAs).
Georgia Power and the Electric Membership Corporations have reportedly already agreed on this bill. If so, it should sail through the legislature. Still, it won’t hurt to call your Georgia House member and ask them to vote for it, and maybe become a co-sponsor.
Here’s PDF of the bill, and here’s the key provision:
46-3-65.(a) Provided that the solar technology does not exceed the capacity limit, the leasing, financing, or installation of such solar technology through a solar energy procurement agreement shall not be considered the provision of electric service to the public, retail electric service, or retail supply of electricity by the solar financing agent, and neither the retail electric customer nor the solar financing agent shall be considered an electric supplier within the meaning of Part 1 of this article or in violation of exclusive electric service rights arising therein.
Here’s the longer rationale for that clause:
46-3-61. The General Assembly hereby finds and declares that:
- It is in the public interest to facilitate customers of electric service providers to invest in and install on their property solar technologies of their choice;
- Free-market financing of solar technologies may provide more customers with opportunities to install solar technology;
- Solar energy procurement agreements, and other similar financing arrangements, including those in which the payments are based on the performance and output of the solar technology installed on the property of customers of electric service providers, are financing arrangements which may help reduce or eliminate upfront costs involved in solar technology investments and installation by such customers; and
- Individuals and entities which offer or receive such financing opportunities through solar energy procurement agreements pursuant to this part should not be considered or treated as electric service providers.
This bill still doesn’t allow selling through the grid to a third party. Maybe next year. And yes, Georgia Power, you could take a percentage.
The bill does include quite a bit of verbiage about “applicable safety, power quality, and interconnection requirements”, but those are actually already required by another Georgia law, the same one that already requires electric utilities to buy your excess solar power if you want to sell it to them: The Georgia Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act of 2001; see 46-3-56.(c):
A distributed generation facility used by a customer generator shall include, at the customer’s own expense, all equipment necessary to meet applicable safety, power quality, and interconnection requirements established by the National Electrical Code, National Electrical Safety Code, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Underwriters Laboratories.
But if Georgia Power wants that language reiterated, hey, why not?
That 2001 law also limits the aggregate capacity of systems selling back to the grid to 0.2% of a utility’s system peak demand from the previous year. That’s another thing to fix another year.
For now, legalizing any power purchase agreements is a huge step forward. A step that even might Georgia Power won’t be able to take back. Instead, it will have to start running to keep up. And the sun will rise on Georgia.