Monday, December 26, 2011

Echols: Solar energy subsidies raises questions

Monday, December 26, 2011
I was recently the swing vote on Georgia Public Service Commission blocked a solar subsidy that would - appeared on the electricity bill by more than 2 million Georgia power customers for 20 years. As the votes have, many people to asked me to reconsider and to support the measure. While it very enticing could I simply to make decision not peace to increase the prices.

My first vote against the solar subsidy surprised many, because I have solar power for me at home. Also, I organized the "solar express" train ride in South Georgia and Georgia tirelessly supported solar companies and existing solar cells. In fact, in this summer by a vote of 5-0, I got the other four public service Commission members create a 50-megawatt solar program - without a subsidy. I was with this fine. This program will provide in the year 2015, increase our entire solar portfolio.

But it came time for me vote this plan change, and adding a subsidy on taxpayer bills to accelerate solar deployment, the promise, which I Georgians made to their prices, promoting free-market systems and Government interference in a minimum kept low to keep ECHO in my head.

These three guidelines would be hurt if I supported the subsidies.

The most tempting moment Georgia came when the solar promised development company which won the offer, use panels instead of Chinese panels if I have my voice changed. This offer has me to lose some sleep. However held principles I set out come back to the voters.

First, I had me wondering whether the taxpayer subsidy for Georgia was the right consumers, not only the companies, that would benefit. On the basis of information from the consumer groups that contacted me to do this, it was not a good idea.

I was wondering whether all other reasonable options have been exhausted. In this case of which bid is only at the beginning, and other solar developers in the queue process believe that they should have a shot, before we add a subsidy. We must therefore, be patient and let process run its course, like Commissioners Stan wise and Chuck Eaton have proposed the bid.

Another problem is whether the aid could improve the business climate in Georgia. May be some benefit to our solar subsidy "green" image and temporarily help a few companies, but the precedent by the increase in the prices without consulting creates controversy surrounding the integrity of the PSC set hearing process.

It is a question whether the aid would mean more jobs for Georgia. Certainly it is signed, because the two solar developers promise a document before it is me, Georgia company. This almost won me, but it is enough by itself?

Finally, I had to check whether the timing of this decision is. With the solar now so volatile market, and prices dropping fast, I hesitate, residential commit taxpayer for 20 years with a payout.

So, what can we do to Georgia bring more solar energy? I believe we must continue to raise ideas because of the nature fixed price of solar energy at the table. It has used no pollution, no spillage of liquids, and no water.

So, can makes companies for its existing plant sites, solar use avoid costly construction for networking and transfer? We can optimize our dosage Charter and incentive makes companies allow a bi-directional measurement, to produce more distributed generation? Ability House and apartment owners and companies with makes companies work and have installed solar systems and on their property financed that benefit both parties? And can Georgia power aggressively promote the current "green energy" programme and increase, solar infrastructure in Georgia triggering the construction of more?

With increasing regulatory requirements of coal, natural gas Glencore and nuclear energy, we need to find out, how to solar energy work as a hedge against government interference in our country.

• Tim Echols of Winterville is Georgia's newest member of the public service Commission.

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