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Georgia Solar Gets Tea Party Boost (525 MW Approved!)

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The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved a new program under which the local energy generator and distributor Georgia Power would be required to construct 525 MW of solar power plants by 2016.

This was proposed by Lauren McDonald and was passed with a vote of 3-2. Incidentally, a lot of support came from the local Tea Party.

In early June, Climate Progress provided some background on this Tea Party push:

The fight to bring cheaper, clean energy to Georgia is uniting some unlikely allies. Renewable energy advocates and leaders of the Atlanta Tea Party are taking on utility giant Southern Co., and its subsidiary Georgia Power, over resisting the call to expand its development of solar energy.

As Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party explained in an interview with Climate Progress, the group’s interest in the debate is quite simple: “The free market has been one of the founding principles of the Tea Party since it began and a monopoly is not a free market.”

In Georgia — as in many states — utilities are granted a monopoly over the ability to sell power, which means that customers have no choice in where they get their electricity. A major provision of the monopoly is that Georgia Power act in the best interest of ratepayers, regulated by the Public Service Commission.

Dooley said the Tea Party believes consumers should be able to exercise choice when it comes to their energy source and the activists she works with don’t want to be dependent on one or two energy sources. And Dooley’s effort is not aimed at reducing carbon emissions — in fact, she doesn’t believe in global warming — but based on their view that solar is a commonsense alternative for Georgia ratepayers that could function without subsidies.

For more background, read the full Climate Progress article.

Forbes, following the 525 GW of solar approval, adds:

The ruling is the latest event in what has been a loud, two-year fight. But what makes Georgia’s solar fight different is that solar advocates aren’t just selling solar as a way to reduce emissions or reduce fossil fuels. Solar has been positioned as a property rights issue pitting private citizens against utilities, regulators and fixed rates of return.

“Are New York bondholders more important than Georgia ratepayers?” Jason Rooks, a lobbyist for the Georgia Solar Energy Association, asks rhetorically. “This is about free market. This is about property rights. It is about technology and innovation.”

If the strategy continues to work, it could become a template for the advocates in rest of the country. Call it the “the enemy of my enemy is my utility” battle plan.

Following that, Forbes also has more context that is quite interesting and worth a read.

Is the Tea Party about to adopt more solar power production as one of its goals? Is the solar rooftop revolution about to get a big boost that unites conservative activists and liberal activists? Do you think it is time for governments to reduce individuals’ income tax rates in exchange for increases of gas and coal taxes? A lot of interesting questions come out of this.

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Brandy Cross

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