Valdosta Daily Times

State News

July 8, 2013

Vote looms in Ga. over solar power usage

Review: Misleading figures used to build case against proposal

ATLANTA — A political group founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch wants Georgia’s utility regulators to reject a plan requiring Southern Co. to buy more solar energy, but an Associated Press review ahead of a vote on the issue finds that it has used misleading figures to build its case.

The Georgia chapter of Americans For Prosperity has said in mass emails and on Twitter that a proposal requiring Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power to buy more solar energy could raise energy bills by 40 percent. A review of those figures shows the claim is misleading, and there’s a debate over how much solar energy might cost.

Georgia’s Public Service Commission will meet next week to vote on the utility’s plan for meeting Georgia’s energy needs for the next two decades. Georgia Power has already agreed to add 270 megawatts of solar energy to its system and did not propose adding more in its latest plan. Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr. wants a vote on a plan requiring Georgia Power to add another 525 megawatts of solar energy.

McDonald’s plan has support from a group of solar developers earlier spurned by Georgia Power and organizers of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots.

“It’s an opportunity for the consumers,” McDonald told the AP. “It’s an opportunity to utilize what God has given us, and that’s the sun.”

The Georgia chapter of Americans For Prosperity wants McDonald’s plan rejected over concerns it will raise costs.

Solar power has historically been pricier than traditional fossil fuel sources for around-the-clock energy, though costs have fallen and developers argue it is now more competitive. Better figures will emerge once Georgia Power signs contracts as part of earlier pushes to obtain solar power. The company expects to pay no more, if not less, for that solar power than it would pay to get it elsewhere, Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said.

Even if costs are higher, the total solar power that has been proposed or added to Georgia Power’s system is the equivalent of 1 percent of its current electric fleet, according to AP calculations based on the capacity of the company’s power plants and a federal study predicting how reliably different types of power plants can produce electricity. As a result, it is unlikely so small a resource could have a 40 percent impact on monthly bills.

In an email to supporters, Georgia director for Americans for Prosperity Virginia Galloway wrote, “What if I told you something you’re not even hearing about in the news is about to raise your electricity bill by more than 40 percent and reduce the reliability of every appliance and electronics gadget in your home? That’s what will happen when your Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) votes on July 11th if you don’t take action today!”

AFP made a similar claim on Twitter.

To support her claim, Galloway cited a study by the Institute for Energy Research showing that customers in states that require utilities to buy renewable energy paid an average of 39 percent more than customers in states without those rules, such as Georgia.

That is not an exact comparison because many factors — not just solar technology — influence prices. The demand for energy and the available supply affect prices. So does local weather. So does choice: In some places, consumers can pick their own electricity provider. In other places, they must rely on a monopoly. And renewable energy requirements vary greatly among the states that have them.

“It’s hard to say it would be fair to apply that across the board,” said Liz Coyle, deputy director of Georgia Watch, a consumer advocacy group that supports renewable energy but is wary of consumer cost increases.

Galloway acknowledged in an interview that the pending proposal would “probably not” raise bills by 40 percent, though she said cost increases are possible. She said Georgia Power already has too much spare electric capacity — a point raised independently by other observers — and said that government mandates can create extra expenses in the long run.

“I don’t think that everyone should be forced to pay more for a questionable thing,” she said.

1
Text Only
State News
  • Ga. online tuition dropping

    Jenni Small has good reason for avoiding 8 a.m. world literature classes at Dalton State College in northern Georgia. The 23-year-old works night shifts as an operator for carpet manufacturer Shaw while finishing her bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
    Instead of heading straight to class from work, she uses eCore — an online system that focuses on “core” classes that every Georgia state college or university student must take — for 1 or 2 courses each semester.

    April 21, 2014

  • Vidalia Onion Battle_Rich copy.jpg Vidalia onion farmer back in court over ship date

    One of Georgia’s most prominent Vidalia onion farmers is going back to court in an effort to stop the state agriculture commissioner from fining growers who ship the famous sweet onions before a certain date.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • GEORGIA PORTS_Rich copy.jpg Ga. ports on track to smash cargo records

    Georgia’s seaports are on track to finish the 2014 fiscal year with record cargo volumes as third-quarter numbers show big growth capped by the ports’ busiest month ever in terms of total tonnage being shipped to and from the docks.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gov. Deal signs prisoner re-entry bill into law

    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill into law on Sunday that is aimed at reducing recidivism among ex-offenders and helping them successfully re-enter society.

    April 14, 2014

  • Deal reports $3.9M in cash for re-election bid

    Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday reported $3.9 million in cash for his re-election bid, after raising about $84,000 in 11 days since the legislative session ended.

    April 8, 2014

  • photoscape_eagle.jpg Ga. eagle population continues growth

    During a late-March aerial survey by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, more than 25 bald eagle nests were counted in northeastern Georgia. All but three represented viable adults and chicks.

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Private company selling Georgia accident reports

    Selling car crash reports to a private company has saved time and money according to state officials, but some drivers cite concerns over retrieval costs and privacy.

    April 7, 2014

  • Forecasters issue flood watch in Ga.

    The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch covering much of the state.

    April 6, 2014

  • Georgia wants private companies to manage student housing

    Georgia is on course to become one of the nation’s largest experiments in privatized college dorms, but it’s unclear whether the changes will lower students’ bills at a time when university costs are soaring.

    April 6, 2014

  • Ga. misses food stamp backlog deadline

    State officials say Georgia missed the deadline to clear backlogged food stamp cases, putting millions of dollars of federal funding at risk.

    April 5, 2014

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results