House bill would create rubber stamp agency for Georgia utilities

Georgia solar industry representatives and clean energy advocates spoke out Monday against H.B. 479, a bill that seeks to remove the Georgia Public Service Commission’s authority to regulate Georgia Power Company’s future plans to invest in different types of new power, such as nuclear and solar energy. The bill, filed by Representative Don Parsons, would prohibit the PSC from making recommendations or changes to Georgia Power’s long-term Integrated Resource Plans, which the utility currently files with the Commission for approval every three years.

 

“We’re concerned about the impact this bill would have on the Commission’s leadership on solar policy,” said Jason Rooks, Government Affairs Director for the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association (GASEIA). “The progress we’ve made on solar is the result of a partnership between the PSC, Georgia Power, and the solar industry. If you take the Commission’s policy role out of the equation, we are probably going to see less solar in the future.”

“This bill is a direct attack on solar in Georgia,” said Scott Thomasson, Director of New Markets for Vote Solar, a national solar advocacy group active in Georgia energy policy. “Georgia has become a national leader for free-market solar policy, led by Republicans like Bubba McDonald who are elected statewide. The five commissioners on the PSC have the expertise needed to review Georgia Power’s proposals, and they’re directly accountable to voters. The General Assembly shouldn’t force elected officials to be a rubber stamp for the utility.”

Kurt Ebersbach, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, warned, “Taking away the Commission’s authority to shape energy planning would hand decision-making entirely over to the utility, with disastrous consequences for customers.  The PSC is charged with balancing multiple stakeholder interests and making the best overall decision, not merely the one favored by the monopoly utility. The PSC’s leadership in adding low-cost solar resources has already resulted in $1 billion in savings for Georgia Power customers – savings that wouldn’t have happened without a vigorous and engaged PSC.”