A shock of excitement raced through the solar industry last week after a Georgia Public Service Commissioner released a statement recommending the Commission—as well as Georgia legislators, solar industry experts and the state’s largest utility, Georgia Power—immediately “investigate and implement needed changes” with regard to solar energy in the state.

On October 18, 2011, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald wrote that given the recent negative press surrounding solar, he took it upon himself to conduct his own research. What he found was that despite being “the 3rd-5th best State for solar energy in the USA,” Georgia ranks 35thin actual solar installs, even though the cost of panels has decreased 33% in “only 10 months.”  Given these facts, Commissioner McDonald stated the solar industry is providing the state with “an outstanding opportunity to supplement our fossil and nuclear power sources while creating good jobs and immediately assisting in GA’s recovery.”  Yet, to do so, “accurate information must be used so Georgia can close the solar gap with other states.” And to close that gap, Commissioner McDonald proposed investigation into adoption of a renewable portfolio standard (“RPS”), combined with renewable energy credits (“RECs”) set at a price-certain. 

A renewable portfolio standard (“RPS”) is a state regulation that requires electric utilities to either produce a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources (such as solar, biomass and wind), or to buy renewable electricity from other producers, by a date certain.

I believe the Commission should further investigate how legislation or action by the [Public Service Commission] could help set a value to GA RECs at $0.04,” writes Commissioner McDonald in his statement.  “If we achieve this low REC value, which is less than the value of RECs in NJ, OH, MD and other states who are currently aggressively implementing solar, we will have acted in the best interest of our State and for generations to come.”

Commissioner McDonald’s statement comes on the heels of another somewhat unexpected letter issued by the state Public Service Commission (“PSC”) to each member of the 2012 Georgia Legislature. 

On October 7, 2011, the PSC the Georgia General Assembly to consider removing the sales tax on energy sales used in manufacturing during the 2012 Legislative Session.

“Largely due to the higher cost of energy here, Georgia has lost more than a billion dollars in investment in new and expanded manufacturing plants in just the past couple of years and the jobs that would have been secured or created by virtue of that investment,” states the PSC’s letter.