New report shows solar, energy efficiency outcompete nuclear in meeting Georgia’s energy needs More »
A recent report shows that replacing the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion with new investments in solar power and energy efficiency would be less risky, more affordable, and more than up to the job of powering Georgia’s economy.
Once deemed the most prudent path forward for Georgia’s growing energy needs, Plant Vogtle has now priced itself out of the market. Already delayed by at least three years and billions of dollars over budget, the Vogtle project hit a new snag in March when the contractor, Westinghouse, declared bankruptcy, raising fresh doubts about the project’s viability.
For the first time since construction commenced, Georgia regulators have begun openly to question whether the Vogtle project can be completed and, assuming it can, whether continuing is worth the steadily mounting costs.
With the project at a vital crossroads, SELC and partner Vote Solar saw the need for an objective assessment to review where we are, how we got here, and the potential implications of halting construction, so they reached out The Greenlink Group.
The conclusion of The Greenlink Group’s report: stopping the project won’t harm Georgia’s electric customers and, in fact, customers would reap more immediate benefits from continued in-state investments in energy efficiency and solar resources.
Georgia regulators’ smart investments in solar power and efficiency programs over the past few years have laid the groundwork for these resources to outcompete Vogtle now. Energy demand projections—the basis for the new units’ approval nine years ago—have since been met through greater efficiency measures and increasingly affordable solar power.
The result: even without the Vogtle units, Georgia will have more than sufficient capacity to meet its growing economy’s electric needs through 2030.
While the Vogtle units continue to add to customers’ bills (the average customer is already paying $100 per year in financing costs alone), energy efficiency and solar are having the opposite effect. For example, Georgia’s recent solar investments are projected to save customers hundreds of millions of dollars in avoided energy costs over the next few decades.
“If ever there was a time for Georgia to boost its investments in efficiency and solar programs, that time is now,” said Kurt Ebersbach, Senior Attorney in SELC’s Atlanta office. “After years of paying for units that may never deliver a kilowatt-hour of electricity, Georgia consumers need the very real bill relief that those investments would afford.”
A crucial decision point for Vogtle is quickly approaching, as Georgia Power (which owns the largest share of the project) and Westinghouse are expected to conclude negotiations over the project’s fate later today.
“Here’s the silver lining in Vogtle’s cloudy outlook: the Georgia Public Service Commission’s strong leadership on solar power has laid the foundation for solar to come to customers’ rescue now,” said Katie Ottenweller, Senior Attorney and leader of SELC’s Solar Initiative. “Shifting to solar at this pivotal moment is the most prudent decision to protect Georgia customers, meet any increases in energy demand, and deliver dependable bill savings.”
Harnessing the South's Bountiful Sunshine
Despite the South’s abundant sunshine, solar energy is a vastly underutilized resource across the region. Recent developments, however, suggest that state policy makers and utility commissions are beginning to recognize the valuable role of solar energy in meeting the region’s electricity demand. SELC’s new initiative was launched to capitalize on this momentum and to help the Southeast reap the many benefits of solar power—including the many new jobs solar can deliver to our region—and reduce our dependence on outdated fossil fuels. Of all the renewable energy sources available today, solar power combines the greatest raw potential with the smallest environmental footprint.
Overcoming the Barriers
Despite growing recognition of the affordability, value and importance of solar energy resources, there are significant obstacles to achieving the South’s full solar power potential.
Utility Monopolies. Most of our states have no policies to require utilities to use renewable energy like solar. Many do have laws that are interpreted in ways that make it difficult for non-utility solar installers to offer common sense financing options to Southerners, which keeps these solar entrepreneurs from bringing jobs and clean energy to our region. These laws need to be clarified to give businesses and residents in the South the freedom of solar choice.
Utilities Taxing Solar Power. Even as solar energy has come down in price, many utilities are actually trying to make solar investments more expensive for their customers. In fact, some utilities want to charge households and businesses through punitive fees and charges for attempting to use solar power. These utilities ignore the significant benefits that solar energy provides to utilities and to all Southerners. SELC fights for consumers’ solar rights across the region, using the power of the law to ensure fair treatment for every home and business that goes solar. Read SELC’s Solar Bill of Rights.
Solar For All. Even though solar power is coming down in price, it is still out of reach for many Southerners, including renters, those with shaded lots, and low and moderate income customers. Our solar initiative is advocating new ways to make solar accessible to all Southerners, such as Community Solar programs that allow customers to participate in a solar project in their community and get credit on their utility bills.
SELC’s solar initiative focuses on removing these barriers so that solar energy will be widely available to consumers and businesses across the region, as well as highlighting the many ways solar benefits families, communities, and businesses in the Southeast.
Making Solar Accessible
We believe that the spread of solar energy is inevitable, but we are pushing the implementation timetable forward by working with state legislatures, the state utility commissions, and the utilities themselves to create opportunities for everyone to benefit from solar’s incredible potential.
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