Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

HB 657 – Georgia’s Solar Monopoly Bill

[Editor’s note: the following guest commentary was contributed by Atlanta attorney Bobby Baker, a member of the Public Service Commission for 18 years before stepping down in 2010.]

Sometimes legislation is visionary and sometimes it is timely, but rarely is legislation as antiquated and anti-competitive as is the case with HB 657.

This proposed legislation will authorize the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to select a “community solar provider” to be the sole developer of solar generation facilities throughout Georgia. Rather than eliminating existing regulatory and legislative barriers to developing competitive renewable energy generation in Georgia, HB 657 would create a new regulatory framework where the PSC would select and regulate one company to develop large scale solar power projects.

The selection of only one community solar provider will mean the company selected will become the de facto monopoly solar provider in Georgia. Not since the early 20th century has the Georgia Legislature created a utility monopoly, and what’s worse is that there is no need to create this new artificial government regulatory model to encourage the development of solar or renewable energy in Georgia.

It’s happening today, and more than 1,000 bids were recently received in response to the new Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative approved by the PSC in 2012. (See PSC Docket No. 36325.) Solar development is ready to explode in Georgia and doesn’t need to be restrained and regulated by HB 657.

While consumer participation under HB 657 is voluntary, it does mandate that “an electric utility is required to purchase from the community solar provider” solar power. Rather than letting the free market determine who will purchase solar power and at what price, HB 657 directs the PSC to set the minimum amounts of electric energy an electric utility must purchase, determine how consumers will participate in the program and set the rates for the sale of solar power to the electric utilities.

After years of deregulating local telephone and natural gas service this regulation of a new utility industry flies in the face of current utility business trends and consumer interests.

Giving HB 657 a positive sounding name does not change the essential purpose of this legislation, to create a new regulated monopoly solar utility in Georgia. Rather than more regulation, the Georgia Legislature needs to consider less regulation of a fast-growing new industry which can provide genuine benefits to individual consumers and support national energy independence.

Good intentions may have motivated the drafting of HB 657, but it won’t produce good results for Georgia or Georgia consumers.

Tags: Bobby Baker , PSC , solar power

2 Comments

  1. Posted April 10, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Interesting because “community solar” providers and projects are the big new thing in China right now. However, when they say “community,” they mean small areas and not a whole state or province. In fact, the Chinese model as I understand it would encourage creativity and competition because group A over here would try to design a better project than group B over there.

  2. Charles
    Posted August 12, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I myself am in favor of HB 657. As I understand it, the bill would place one company over Georgia’s solar positions but would also use the profits from the solar program to drive down utility service cost provided by Georgia Power. That to me mean that everyone benefits from HB 657, not just the companies that provide solar power to Georgia Power. Wail on the other hand PCS docket no. 36325 would provide more jobs from multiple solar company’s around Georgia, it steal only provides a benefit to the areas those companies would be located and not all Georgia residents such as Bill HB 657.

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