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Thursday, July 11, 2013

PSC approves plan ordering Georgia Power to add more solar power

Pro-solar energy demonstrators respond to honking cars this morning in front of the Gold Dome. The Public Service Commission voted today to approve a plan that could greatly expand solar power in the state.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Pro-solar energy demonstrators respond to honking cars this morning in front of the Gold Dome. The Public Service Commission voted today to approve a plan that could greatly expand solar power in the state.

State regulators today approved a plan that would require Georgia Power to use more solar energy - a move the powerful utility, backed by some conservative organizations, fought. The actual impact of the plan passed today by the Public Service Commission - and which could add more than 525 megawatts of solar power in Georgia - must still be analyzed.

But today's hearing and vote capped several weeks of heated debate and questions about solar power's future in Georgia. People on both sides of the issue packed a standing-room only hearing today at the PSC. Demonstrators called for more clean energy at a pro-solar energy rally in front of the Gold Dome. And inside the Capitol, a conservative group warned of financial consequences of expanding solar energy in Georgia.

The day started with roughly 40 pro-solar demonstrators rallying in front of the Gold Dome with signs and chants like "2, 4, 6, 8, solar power can't wait." Demonstrators, which included members of the Sierra Club and Georgia Tea Party Patriots, fanned across Washington Street in front of the Capitol. The group cheered when their enthusiasm was met by honking cars.

"I support clean energy, I support not blowing up the Appalachian Mountains [to obtain coal] and I prefer being on the right side of history," said Chris Theal. Sierra Club volunteer Nina Dutton said she came to the rally because the PSC's vote on solar energy offered an "unusual opportunity to push Georgia Power in the right direction."

Lance Brown, executive director of the Partnership For Affordable Clean Energy, said at the Americans for Prosperity press conference that the best outcome for consumers comes from allowing power providers to choose their fuel source, not heavy-handed government requirements.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Lance Brown, executive director of the Partnership For Affordable Clean Energy, said at the Americans for Prosperity press conference that the best outcome for consumers comes from allowing power providers to choose their fuel source, not "heavy-handed government requirements."

Later in the morning, Americans for Prosperity's Georgia chapter hosted a press conference inside the Capitol attended by four speakers and a few others. They claimed additional solar power would result in excess costs and was not efficient.

Patti Gettinger of the Georgia Tea Party Inc. (not to be confused with the The Georgia Tea Party Patriots, which attended this morning's pro-solar rally) said the PSC should not "force utilities to use inefficient, unreliable, unpredictable, expensive and financially unstable solar energy." Joel Aaron, AFP Georgia's communications and grassroots director, said that states with renewable energy mandates saw an increase of "up to 40 percent" for ratepayers. (The Associated Press has disputed the claim.)

Aaron also took offense to media reports that said AFP was controlled by David and Charles Koch, the corporate titans who help fund numerous right-wing causes and organizations. Aaron called that characterization a "myth." He argued that the group has more then 150,000 donors. When pressed about how much of their budget comes from David Koch, who sits on the board, he did not provide a number and referred CL to the national AFP office. Our message was not returned before publication.

A packed room heard final comments from both sides regarding the Integrated Resources Plan which would require Georgia Power to invest in solar energy.
  • Joeff Davis
  • A packed room heard final comments from both sides of the debate regarding the Integrated Resources Plan, which would require Georgia Power to use more solar energy.

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