The rapid adoption of solar energy systems by Georgia home and business owners under Georgia Power’s “Monthly Net Metering” program is about to grind to a halt and could threaten solar jobs in the state. When the Public Service Commission established the program in 2019 it placed a cap on the number of customers that could benefit from monthly netting. That cap has now been reached.
“For the first time in state history, Georgia Power customers with solar panels on their homes or businesses can get full credit for energy exported to the utility,” said Montana Busch, co-chair of the Georgia Solar Energy Association and CEO of Alternative Energy Southeast, headquartered in Athens. “This policy has helped to create hundreds of new jobs in one year. If the PSC’s cap stands we will lose many of these good paying jobs”.
Monthly net metering is a basic utility policy that credits solar customers at the retail rate for the solar energy fed back into the grid, required in Georgia’s 2001 Co-Generation and Distribution Act. An analysis provided by the Southern Environmental Law Center shows monthly net metering as an industry-standard utility solar policy. Under Monthly Net Metering, customers essentially get credited the full retail value of their solar (up to their monthly usage) instead of the wholesale rate (⅕ of the avg. retail rate) Georgia Power previously credited for all solar exports.
Georgia Power’s monthly net-metering program was created as a part of the 2019 Public Service Commission (PSC) Rate Case with the support of the Georgia Solar Energy Association. Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols added a cap of 5,000 customers or 32 MW of capacity, whichever comes first. Under this program, rather than instantly crediting a customer’s excess solar generation at wholesale prices, the utility uses excess solar power to offset consumption, thereby further reducing the customer’s bill.
“The pilot monthly net-metering program has been a big success for Georgia Power customers and the growing solar industry” said Russell Seifert, CEO of Creative Solar USA in Kennesaw, Georgia. “We’ve been in the state for 13 years and the adoption of the monthly net metering program for Georgia Power was a signal to us that Georgia was finally becoming a mature solar market. Now isn’t the time to put a cap on Georgia’s solar opportunity. Neighboring southern states already have many times more than Georgia Power’s 5,000 customers with onsite solar: South Carolina with over 20,000; Florida with almost 60,000.”
Georgia’s solar industry has added dozens of new companies and thousands of new solar installations under the program in 2021. Now that the caps have been met, Georgia Power customers interested in solar energy will only be able to recoup wholesale power costs from excess energy they produce. If the Public Service Commission does not extend the program, the Georgia Solar Energy Association warns that hundreds of solar jobs are at risk as companies re-evaluate their presence in the state.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Georgia is currently ranked 9th amongst all states for the amount of solar energy installed with one of the fastest growing solar job markets in the nation.
Georgia Solar Energy Association plans to hold webinars for solar installers and solar owners interested in learning more about the monthly netting caps and urged interested parties to visit www.gasolar.org for updates.
News item from the Georgia Solar Energy Association