Georgia politicians jump on 'solar' bandwagon

Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 6:46 AM
Last updated 6:44 PM
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ATLANTA -- In a matter of days, political candidates and private companies have started jockeying to see which is the most supportive of solar energy.

Thursday, Democratic challenger Steve Oppenheimer attacked Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton, his opponent, for being a Johnny-come-lately because Eaton is backing a proposal Georgia Power Co. filed the day before. The giant utility is seeking commission approval to issue limited-size contracts for solar power instead of the biomass it was already authorized to use because the biomass producer backed out.

Eaton trumpeted Georgia Power’s plan, saying he had helped shape it so that customer rates would not increase.

“The Georgia Public Service Commission has been unduly criticized by special interests and others with radical ‘solar first’ political agendas for not developing solar capacity on a timeline that satisfies their liberal ideological desires,” he said. “Until now, the cost of solar power was not competitive without taxpayer or ratepayer subsidies to politically connected solar firms like Solyndra.”

Solyndra was a company that made solar panels and came under national attention when it went bankrupt after getting large loans from the Obama administration.

The challenger accused Eaton of a “battlefield conversion” to solar six weeks before their election when it had become economically viable long before, according to Oppenheimer. Where was the commissioner’s concern for customers when he voted 10 times to raise their utility rates, he asked.

“What is best for Georgia, a politician who only supports something when the polls say he should, or a representative who works for Georgia families full time?” Oppenheimer asked.

At the same time, a start-up corporation that wants to compete with Georgia Power Co. issued its own criticisms Thursday.

Shane Owl-Greason, co-founder of Georgia Solar Utilities Inc., said his company’s approach is better for customers.

“GaSU’s plan puts ratepayers first, builds a solid path for rate reductions and does not compromise the profits of the incumbent utilities,” he said.

GaSU plans to share its profits with customers after paying Georgia Power to use its wires.

Meanwhile, Georgia Power executives said GaSU should shrink its sights to one-tenth of what the start-up plans and instead of competing, it should simply supply the existing utility which would remain a monopoly. After all, said Georgia Power’s Greg Roberts, vice president of pricing and planning, a bigger solar installation like GaSU plans won’t operate any cheaper than a small one.

“There’s not much more economies of scale to it above 20 megawatts,” Roberts said.

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soapy_725 09/28/12 - 07:55 am
Solar and wind power are not

cost effective way of generating power. Popular mechanics had home solar kits and wind kits in the 1960's. Heck they had a guy in California whose car had been converted to the Hydrogen fuel with water as the exhaust. The oil companies buy the good patents and place them in their archives. Two factors have remained in place over the decades. Cost to Benefit Ratio. Cheap Middle East Oil. Alternate Energy looks good on paper and in the minds of the "green team". The "green team" has someone else to pay for their ideology.

soapy_725 09/28/12 - 08:05 am
The Atlanta Political Theater

performing as they do best. Paid for by taxpayer dollars. Non representation. There must be some major "lobbyist bucks" available for the "band wagon riders".

resident 09/28/12 - 10:58 am
Sounds Fishy to me

I am happy to see that the PSC is actually doing something for a change besides voting to raise the rates, however it is rather fishy smelling that the timing is after another company wanted to compete chimes in and also elections are so close. This has political written all over it and if I were placing bets I would say if re-elected that the whole subject is dropped again. The next thing is if this is an actual reality then perhaps the school systems should be the first to jump on this and save money while they build new schools. Once again here is an opportunity for power bill reduction that can roll into the cost of building the school. Instead of Fancy Narble pillars, and Chanliers maybe take that money and invest in something like grid attached solar. I know it is not a full time power source but really it could lower electrical costs and in the summer when the buildings are not utilized much the electricity goes back on the grid....

Bulldog 09/29/12 - 10:17 am

If GaSU can produce electricity and sell it unsubsidized to anyone at a competitive rate (3.5 -5.5 cents/kilowatt hour), then I'm all for it and I'll buy stock in the company. If they can do that then, I will also be absolutely amazed. I was unaware that technology had come that far...

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