Solar energy advocates in Georgia are gearing up for the 2024 legislative session, hoping to see progress on several solar-related bills that could significantly impact the industry. While only one solar measure was approved during the 2023 session, half a dozen bills will remain alive when lawmakers return in January 2024.
House Bill 73, which enjoys bipartisan support, is among the most significant bills and could give state utility regulators the responsibility of overseeing solar contractors involved in financing and installing residential rooftop solar panels. The bill aims to protect consumers by requiring solar contractors to disclose all information about their services, including pricing and financing options.
Georgia Solar and the Sierra Club of Georgia both support the provisions in House Bill 73, but the solar association in the state does not agree with the bill’s intention to grant regulatory authority over solar businesses to the Georgia Public Service Commission. On the other hand, Georgia Solar is in favor of placing residential solar businesses under the regulation of professional licensing boards, which would be overseen by the Georgia Secretary of State.
Another measure backed by clean energy advocates could move Georgia out of the bottom 10 states for solar-powered homes and businesses. Currently, although Georgia is among the top 10 states in terms of solar capacity, the proportion of residential rooftop solar within that capacity is relatively low. Senate Bill 210, supported by the solar association and environmentalists, would expand net metering beyond the current 5,000 participants and deliver the biggest jolt to rooftop solar in Georgia.
Net metering is a billing arrangement that allows solar panel owners to receive credit for the excess electricity they generate and send back to the grid. Georgia Power, the state’s largest utility, argues that net metering unfairly shifts costs onto consumers who use other forms of energy, and the Public Service Commission supported the company’s position in approving a new rate hike on its customers in December.
However, Georgia Solar disagrees with Georgia Power and the commission’s endorsement and believes that exporting excess solar energy is valuable. According to the solar association, expanding net metering would enable more homeowners to invest in solar energy and save money on their utility bills.
Representative Kasey Carpenter also intends to continue promoting a measure that prohibits homeowners’ associations from blocking residents from installing solar panels. This bill would provide more clarity and consistency across the state regarding the rights of homeowners to install solar panels on their homes.
Georgia Solar will also monitor the rollout of Senate Bill 149, which is intended to prevent door-to-door salesmen from misleading customers. This bill was the only solar measure that received final approval during the 2023 session, and it aims to protect consumers from predatory sales tactics.
Overall, solar advocates in Georgia are optimistic about the potential for progress in the 2024 legislative session. With several bills still alive and bipartisan support for many measures, the industry could see significant changes that make solar energy more accessible and affordable for Georgia residents. As the state continues to rank among the top 10 for solar capacity, expanding rooftop solar could have positive environmental and economic impacts for years to come.
Jonas Muthoni is an entrepreneur and renewable energy expert. He is the founder of MicroGridMedia.com, a website dedicated to bringing the latest news and information about solar energy and other renewable energy sources to the public. Jonas is passionate about promoting sustainable energy solutions and educating the public about the benefits of renewable energy. He is a regular speaker at industry events and conferences and is committed to driving the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.