News | February 4, 2022

Georgians want better, fairer rooftop solar policies

Georgia consistently ranks in the top 10 states in the country for the amount of installed solar, making it an appealing place for panel manufacturers and installers to set up shop. As a result, Georgia is now home to a growing solar industry that is creating thousands of jobs and boosting local economies.

Despite the fact that customer demand for rooftop solar has sky rocketed in recent years, most of Georgia’s solar growth to date is made up of utility and large-scale solar projects. As other Southern states like South Carolina and Florida are seeing major growth in rooftop solar markets, Georgia is at risk of falling further behind.

A new Stories of Solar video series highlights the benefits of solar for Georgians, and the opportunities to ramp up rooftop growth statewide that would further position the Peach State as a clean energy leader.

Why are Georgians demanding fairer rooftop solar policies?

We asked some.

What is net metering and why does it matter?

There is plenty of customer demand for rooftop solar. But without good policies in place, it’s difficult for many Georgians to go solar. Expanding and improving rooftop solar policies would allow more Georgians to generate their own power and see substantial bill savings. 

Net metering is a key policy that can make solar more affordable and accessible for Georgians. When the sun is shining and rooftop solar customers don’t use all of the energy their panels are producing, they are credited for extra power sent back to the grid. 

Under a net metering policy, solar customers are credited at the retail rate – effectively allowing them to use all of their homegrown solar before buying additional electricity from their utility.  Without net metering, customers receive only a fraction of the value for their homegrown solar. 

States with widespread access to net metering have seen significantly more rooftop solar growth compared to Georgia. For example, South Carolina has half as many residents as Georgia, but five times the rooftop solar customers.

Meet Jessica Worley.

She has the scoop on what solar customers are calling for.

Georgia Power’s limited net metering program: “We are losing customers because of the cap

If you live in Georgia Power’s service territory and have rooftop solar panels on your house, you get a credit on your bill for the energy you produce.

That credit was very low until 2020, when the Georgia Public Service Commission ordered Georgia Power to roll out a new monthly net metering program that credited customers at the retail rate over the course of the billing period.

But there was a catch–the program only had 5,000 spots for Georgia Power’s over 2.5 million customers.

The immense popularity of the program led to it filling up in less than two years. Until and unless the cap is removed, Georgia Power customers who go solar will only receive about a quarter of the value they would get under a net metering policy.

Georgia solar companies are already reporting that many customers previously interested in going solar have been discouraged from taking next steps upon learning they aren’t currently able to reap the same benefits from the net metering program. 

Jessica Worley, who works as a Sales Support Specialist for Creative Solar USA, says that she’s noticed an uptick in calls from Georgia Power customers inquiring about whether the cap has already been met.

“What I tell them is, ‘Yes, they have met the cap, but we are hoping to get it extended,’” Worley says. “They’re like, ‘Oh okay, well we’ll check back in a year or two’ — I do feel like we are losing customers because of the cap with net metering.”

Opportunities to open access to rooftop solar in 2022

Expanding Georgia Power’s program in 2022 would allow more rooftop solar customers to access the benefits of net metering. And while Georgia Power customers make up the majority of the state’s population, other utilities, such as local municipal electric providers, could also make their policies more accessible for families and businesses statewide.

“Georgians who make the investment to go solar should receive fair value for the solar energy they produce,” says SELC Senior Attorney Jill Kysor. “Expanding access to net metering could give Georgia the boost it needs to catch up to the significant rooftop growth, local job creation, and customer bill savings we are seeing in neighboring states.”

Decisionmakers at the Georgia General Assembly and the Public Service Commission will be considering Georgia’s solar policies, including net metering, with key energy decision points in the coming months. Stay tuned for how you can take action in advocating for better policies and increasing access to rooftop solar for Georgians statewide.

SELC works to power the sunny South with solar energy.