ATLANTA — Four challengers to two Republicans on the Public Service Commission agreed at a forum Thursday that the state should shift toward more renewable energy sources, and they blasted the absent incumbents for accepting contributions from utility executives and lawyers.
Commissioners Stan Wise and Chuck Eaton told organizers that their schedules were full on each of the dates proposed for the event at Emory University, according to Alexis Chase, the executive director of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, one of the sponsoring organizations. Others groups included were those organized for the environment, consumer protection and opposition to nuclear power. About 75 people attended the 90-minute event.
The challengers didn’t disagree on much, but they did all fault Wise and Eaton. They also opposed making Georgia Power customers pay up front for the costs of building two reactors at Plant Vogtle and attacked the commissioners for not lobbying the Legislature to pass a bill this year that would have allowed companies other than utilities to sell solar power to individuals.
While they support the use of renewable sources – including solar, wind and biomass – in place of coal and natural gas, none of the candidates favored a firm target similar to the renewable portfolio standards enacted in about half of the states.
Technology innovations are too quick to be reflected in a concrete, multiyear mandate, argued Libertarian David Staples, who’s running against Wise.
Pam Davidson, a Republican also hoping for that seat, said she favors an incremental approach toward more use of trees and grasses as fuel.
“We should be turning to biomass power, clean, affordable biomass,” she said.
Steve Oppenheimer, a Democrat challenging Eaton, said instead of a set target for renewables, he favors one for conservation.
“We ought to be looking at 1-2 percent energy efficiency as a target over the next few years,” he said.
The challengers also agreed the commission should consider the costs to the environment and taxpayers for treating health conditions triggered by power plants when deciding on the most affordable energy source for Georgia Power.
“I believe everything should pay its own way,” said Matt Reid, a Republican seeking Eaton’s seat.