One of many things I learned from attending the Solar Forum hosted by Center for a Sustainable Coast last weekend was that maybe Georgia Power “is not living up to their end of the deal” when they were given an energy producing monopoly in our state back in 1973.
Apparently, their end of the deal was to provide energy to the citizens of Georgia at the most affordable, efficient and reliable way. A few of the PSC members who voted on the Territorial Act of 1973 admit that the new energy technologies that exist today were not considered at that time, and may now have changed the playing field. This suggests the Act itself must be updated.
First, let us consider solar energy. A pair of number crunchers, Robert Green and Shane Owl–Greason, have presented a persuasive case that solar can provide cheaper, cleaner, abundant and reliable energy to augment the existing grid of electrical power in our state, which is rated in the top level nationwide for available sun. When presented with this data, Georgia Power immediately applied for permitting to fund 210 megawatts of additional solar energy.
But why should we limit ourselves to this, when it is a drop in the bucket for what the future demands? Investors are salivating to start building solar in such a sun–rich area, but Georgia Power refuses to let go of a bad investment decision that will shortly result in another request for rate hikes to pay for increasing costs of Plant Vogtle II. Even their turn towards natural gas will be reliant on an uncertain pricing market for yet another fossil fuel.
Solar, on the other hand, is predictable in construction cost (prices are actually dropping every year), is low in maintenance and operating costs... and is “fuel free.” So fuel costs cannot fluctuate. The energy is produced at the peak time for demand. It is literally water–free, so it will reduce the stressful use of our fresh drinking water, used so heavily in coal and nuclear.
Germany just showed us that they (a country whose sun exposure is similar to Alaska) can produce 50 percent of their national energy demand during the peak hour of a sunny day.
So certainly we can shoot for ten percent for Georgia, instead of the fraction of one percent that Georgia Power envisions. Jobs and state revenues also figure into anyone’s view of the potential of courting this new industry to our state.
So what is stopping us... or those who want to invest in this capital venture? The State Legislature, and the Territorial Act of 1973. I will let you muse on what needs to be done next year to make sure legislation “gets on the agenda of the correct committee” and on to the floor of the legislature for a vote.
If this is such a volatile subject and our legislators FEAR making a decision, why not take a path they are using more and more frequently? Let the voters decide.