Solar Policy: Laws at Federal, State and Local Levels
- Energy production and consumption is tightly controlled in the U.S. to ensure safety, market viability, and consumer protection.
- Policy determines:
- How energy is generated.
- Who may – and may not – sell it.
- How it is sold.
- What it will cost.
- How it travels from one location to another is legally prescribed and can be confusing.
- Most energy laws in the U.S. were enacted long before solar energy became a significant part of the U.S. energy market.
- Some current laws governing energy production inhibit solar development, largely because solar deployment and use don’t follow the grid model of energy distribution.
- Much energy regulation is delegated to the states and varies from state to state.
- Federal energy laws focus primarily on interstate transmission and movement.
- Overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
- The PSC oversees the operation of Georgia’s largest public utility, Georgia Power, through administrative procedures and rulings
- Every three years, Georgia Power updates its projections for power demand over the next 20 years and establishes allocation of resources designed to meet that demand, a process known as the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
- Other types of power providers include Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMCs).
- Local government building and zoning codes set standards for how and where structures in each city or county are built.
- These codes vary from one jurisdiction to another.
- Permits are required stating that installation plans conform to local standards.
- Permit applications require submission of engineered drawings and involve inspections before the system can be activated.
How states can make solar more accessible and affordable
Value of Solar (VOS)
Renewable Portfolio Standards
- Officials and solar advocates in many states are now engaged in determining how to price solar energy in the grid, an important factor in making solar affordable.
- Often, important contributions solar energy makes to energy rates and other significant benefits of solar energy production are not included in calculations.
- The factors included and the prices set vary widely from state to state.
- So far, Georgia’s rates for solar returned to the grid only cover what is known as “avoided cost,” which is the cost of electricity the utility or other seller would provide from sources other than solar.
- This avoided cost does not include many VOS factors, and is much lower than the price of solar installation per kWh.
- Some states, such as North Carolina, set specific goals for the percentage of solar and other renewable energy their energy providers must include in their resource plans and deadlines for meeting those goals.
- So, utilities, EMCs and MEAGs create encourage solar adoption and invest in solar projects.
- Georgia does not have a Renewable Portfolio Standard.
- Tax credits are a very popular way to encourage solar adoption.
- In 2011, Georgia provided $2.5 million in tax credits for solar installation to be spread over three years.
- Those program funds were fully committed within the first year.
- Since the expiration of those credits, no additional funds have been earmarked for that purpose.
Lawmakers truly want to know what is important to the people who live and work in their home districts. GA Solar’s Policy Committee works to bring the positive message of solar energy’s benefits to state leaders. But we need your voices to help show them what solar can do for Georgia in every geographic and economic sector. GA Solar is dedicated to educating, empowering, and mobilizing all solar supporters across the state.