Despite similar climates, both political and meteorological, Georgia and Alabama could not be more different in their approach to solar power. SELC attorneys Kurt Ebersbach and Keith Johnston discuss the stark policy differences between Georgia and Alabama, and how Alabama can follow Georgia’s lead by embracing its solar potential and the economic growth that will come with it in an op-ed published yesterday by the Birmingham News.
Some highlights from the piece:
Both states are comparable in terms of solar power potential, among the sunniest in the nation. The difference is in policy - while Georgia's policymakers see the value in promoting the state's clean energy economy through cost-effective solar investments, Alabama has shown no similar inclination and has even erected solar-killing barriers.
Georgia is now on track to add nearly 1 gigawatt of solar generation by 2016 and is considered a national leader in solar generation. None of this new solar will increase costs for consumers.
Now consider Alabama. Alabama Power, sister utility to Georgia Power, has no solar purchase program to speak of. The state's solar installations remain discouragingly low - less than 1 MW.
[T]he Alabama Public Service Commission early last year adopted the very sort of solar tax rejected in Georgia. The tariff imposes a monthly charge of $5.00 per kilowatt on residents, small businesses and schools who rely partially on solar to offset their energy consumption in the Alabama Power service territory.
As a result of these policies, it's no surprise that Alabama ranks 49th among states in solar jobs per capita. Meanwhile, Georgia is poised to be among the top five states in terms of solar capacity, and has six times as many solar jobs as Alabama.
As solar costs continue to fall, Alabama should follow Georgia's lead. Alabama Power and its regulators at the PSC should seize the opportunity to lower costs for consumers and bring jobs and needed revenue to economically struggling areas of the state.