Solar energy fans are longing for sunnier days after Georgia lawmakers stalled major changes

Proponents of solar energy anticipate that in 2024 lawmakers will continue to push for legislation that could result in major changes to industry regulations and rapidly expand the rooftop solar market in Georgia.

Georgia’s 2023 legislative session ended on March 29 with a doorstep selling bill, which is the only solar measure to receive final approval in both the State House and Senate. Half a dozen solar bills still alive when lawmakers return for the second half of the two-year session in January.

The most controversial proposal that might come back next year House bill 73, legislation with bipartisan support that could give state utility regulators oversight over solar contractors who fund and install solar panels on residential rooftops. Meanwhile, a measure backed by clean-energy advocates could lift Georgia out of the bottom ten states for solar-powered homes and businesses.

Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association executive director Don Moreland said he expects changes to be made to the solar bills for adoption next year. And more solar initiatives could be in store when the General Assembly returns to the Capitol in January.

Rep. Kasey Carpenter, a Dalton Republican, says he intends to continue promoting a measure that would ban homeowners’ associations from blocking residents from installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes and storage buildings.

He said that House bill 355 can be rewritten so that only newly formed homeowners associations formed after the law came into force can ban solar panels on roofs of houses.

“What’s going on in North Carolina and across the US, there was a movement that said, look, this is more about electricity and energy independence than trying to ruin an HOA,” Carpenter said. “People should have the right to run their homes as they see fit.”

Georgia Solar and the Sierra Club of Georgia have commended many of the provisions in Dallas GOP Rep. Joseph Gullett House bill 73 This requires solar companies to disclose all information to consumers, including the amount of energy the panels will generate, the projected energy savings, and how much their utility will pay them for excess solar energy they feed into the grid.

According to Gullett, the legislation would provide more oversight over an industry where out-of-state scammers make false claims of savings on utility bills and sell overpriced appliances to unsuspecting consumers.

If you export a lot of solar energy in the middle of the day, especially in the summer when everyone is blaring their air conditioners and all that electricity is being fed into the grid at that time, then we think that energy is valuable

– Don Moreland, executive director of the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association

However, the state solar association remains steadfast in its opposition to Gullett’s desire to give the Georgia Public Service Commission the power to regulate solar companies.

Mark Woodall, conservation chair of Sierra Club Georgia, also doesn’t want the industry controlled by a commission that would allow a monopoly like Georgia Power to stifle solar power development.

The session ended before the senators voted on the legislation. Moreland said GA Solar prefers the companies to be regulated by professional licensing boards under the authority of the Georgia Secretary of State.

“We realized that there are a lot of bad players in our industry, mostly government marketers, that have really given the entire industry a bit of a black eye,” he said. “We recognize that something needs to be done. In fact, we’ve been demanding consumer protection laws for two years.

“We just don’t think the residential solar industry should be regulated by the Public Service Commission like a utility like a telecom company or a gas marketer,” Moreland said. “It’s apples to pears.”

GA Solar will oversee Republican Senator John Albers’ launch later this year Senate bill 149, which aims to prevent doorstep sellers from misleading customers. Under the measure, homeowners have 30 days to cancel contracts for goods and services costing $10,000 or more that have been funded for at least five years. In addition, a detailed receipt must be presented by the seller.

“Often these door-to-door guys can be high-pressure salespeople and they can kind of trick you or sometimes be very persuasive, and I might get the homeowner into something they wouldn’t otherwise think of,” Moreland said.

Georgia is in the top 10 states for solar capacity, Moreland said, but only a relatively small percentage of that is residential rooftop solar.

The solar association and environmentalists support Republican Senator Jason Anivitarte from Dallas Senate Bill 210which they say will deliver the biggest boost for rooftop solar in Georgia by expanding net metering beyond the current 5,000 subscribers.

With net metering, Georgia Power would pay full retail price for excess energy produced by solar-powered homes and businesses. The additional bill credits would be double new solar energy consumers, which would drastically reduce the number of years it takes to recoup installation and equipment costs, industry leaders said.

Georgia Power argues that net metering unduly shifts the cost to consumers who use other forms of energy to power their homes and businesses. The PSC supported the position of the country’s largest electricity supplier approved a new interest rate hike to its customers in December.

Moreland disagrees with Georgia Power and the five-member state regulatory commission’s endorsement of the company.

“If you’re exporting a lot of solar energy in the middle of the day, especially in the summer, when everyone’s blasting their air conditioners and all that electricity is going into the grid at that time, then we think that energy is valuable,” he says.