Your Annual Serving From Georgia Power

"It's tasty and nutritious. Like coal."

Comes now Georgia Power, those “good corporate citizens” we know and love. They keep our lights on, our flat screen TVs flicker-free and allow us to bear the heat of Georgia summers without looking like Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke.” (Fact: “Cool Hand Luke” was nominated for an Oscar as the “sweatiest movie ever made,” but it lost out to “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Now you know.)

Georgia Power would have you believe that allowing some Georgia ratepayers to put solar panels on their roofs would cause electricity rates to skyrocket for those ratepayers who don’t put solar panels on their roofs. In the power generating industry, the technical term for this position is illustrated by the picture above.

I appreciate the great concern Georgia Power has shown me as their customer ratepayer. Why, just a couple of years ago they thoughtfully protected me from the high cost of financing nuclear power plants by charging me fees before those plants were even built. I was so relieved! Yes, yes, my fees went up, but not as much as they might have. Thanks, barely regulated monopoly!

The legislative backstory on this bill has been fascinating. State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) proposed SB 401, a bill that would allow power customers to install solar panels and finance them with solar companies. That bill was quickly assigned to the Natural Resources Committee, where good ideas go to be murdered. Undaunted, Carter attached the solar power bill to SB 459, a bill which would allow consumers opt out of letting Georgia Power use smart meters to read their electric usage. (Aside: Under SB 459, ratepayers who opt out of smart meters will be charged a fee for NOT having new equipment installed at their houses, presumably so Georgia Power can recover the cost of those customers’ new tinfoil hats.)

Consumer guru Clark Howard, who has single-handedly saved Georgians more money than all members of the Georgia Legislature since we became a state, testified that allowing ratepayers to get a little of their power from solar companies would be a step into the 21st century, create jobs and allow Georgia to catch up with the 45 other states that allow this. Committee members have to consider carefully whether those things are good ideas, and will let us know when they are done thinking and Georgia Power has provided them with their talking points.

In the meantime, op-eds are popping up in newspapers all over the state, explaining that these solar purchase agreements that are legal in 45 other states are bad for Georgia because they would require “regulated power providers to basically treat the new renewable installations as their own, tying them into the grid, installing the transmission lines they need, and accounting for all of the consequences for when the sun doesn’t shine.” You know, just like Georgia Power does now. (See that picture at the top of this post? Look at it again, because Georgia Power wants you to have a double serving.)

There’s probably no hope for any pro-solar power legislation passing this session. Crossover Day is tomorrow, and the mad rush to finish the legislative session and get home and start fundraising has begun. The good news for Georgians is that if you choose to donate money to an incumbent elected official, you can now do so more efficiently.

Just include your campaign contribution as an extra amount on your next electric bill. Your power company will make sure it gets there.

 

75 comments

  1. Calypso says:

    The picture in this post looks like something that reminds me of both the way GaPower is handling this issue as well as Don Balfour.

  2. wicker says:

    This is but a subset of the “pro-business conservative” narrative. It exists based on a false dualism, which is that you are either a pro-capitalist conservative or an anti-capitalist liberal or socialist. The facts that A. corporations seek their own interest, not the common interest and B. the people who run corporations are just as prone to be unscrupulous, incompetent or simply lazy get totally ignored. The idea that we have to protect not only the citizens but from corporations seeking their own interests at the expense of everybody else – and from breaking laws – should be a conservative position. Instead, the idea that corporations should have to follow the law like everybody else is called “regulation” and “anti-corporate”, and the idea that folks who run corporations are these morally pure people who are infallible in their job functions (in contrast to the evil, corrupt incompetent folks in Hollywood, the mainstream media, and government!) predominates.

    This nonsense mindset, a huge overreaction to left-liberal ideology, cripples this state when it comes to things like energy and transportation. Maybe Georgia can’t be a leader in alternative energy because we aren’t a desert state, aren’t a windy state, don’t have much geothermal energy, or a large coastline. But we could at least be a player if only because of our agricultural sector. And transportation … we WERE a leader in that area, but not anymore. It really does sicken me that conservatives aren’t smart enough to realize that their “energy policy” is just the party line spoonfed to them by the oil company lobbyists, who have bought off the talk radio/Fox News types with advertising (including Fox News getting a ton of investment from Saudi Arabia as Debbie Schlussel – not exactly a liberal! – points out) and so many of the leading Republicans on energy are either from oil states or get a ton of contributions and gifts from the oil companies too. They’ve duped conservatives into thinking “drill baby drill” to the exclusion of everything else is good policy merely because it represents some victory against the environmentalists.

    Well look, I went and saw “The Lorax” a couple of days ago. It is IMPOSSIBLE to watch that and ignore that environmentalism is anything other than a mixture of hard core ideology and creepy religion. (I can’t explain how without giving out plot spoilers.) There is a difference between being a socialist and mindlessly thinking “corporations are our friend.” Just like there is a difference between being a tree worshiper (again, see “The Lorax”) and wanting to use available technology to drive down the demand for – and price of – oil. These talk radio brainwashed “conservatives” keep mindlessly repeating “alternative energy isn’t worthwhile until it becomes as cheap, reliable and widely available as oil!” Nonsense. Even if the alternative energy costs more than oil, if we use enough of it, we get the benefit from driving down the price of oil. Getting rid of the oil speculators alone – which a serious alternative energy push would do – could cut 1/3 of the price. The oil companies fight it not because they want to give us the best, cheapest energy source out of the kindness of their hearts and a desire to make our country strong. They fight it because they want to retain their monopoly and profit margin without having to work for it. What makes their monopoly any better than the public education monopoly? Except … you know, there really isn’t a public education monopoly. Private schools do exist, and 80% of the population could afford it if they were to make it a priority. But what practical alternative is there to Georgia Power?

    It is as bad as the bill designed to keep city and county governments from putting in broadband. These are areas that the ISPs have already stated that they have NO INTEREST in providing broadband to. They claim that they are “protecting the taxpayer.” Protecting the monopolies is more like it. Whatever happened to local control? Had these folks been running Georgia and the country 60 years ago, most of the state wouldn’t have electricity and phone service, because they would have opposed the REA. As a matter of fact, the legacy of the REA still exists: the EMCs.

    This is why the energy/utilities/transportation/infrastructure debate never goes anywhere. In one corner you have the anti-corporate Democrats. In the other corner you have the bought-and-paid-for-by-lobbyists Republicans.

  3. OleDirtyBarrister says:

    The picture is a corny visual and adds nothing.

    What would be substantive, additive, and useful is reference to studies and white papers from other states evaluating the benefits and consequences of this type of legislation.

    Does this really come down to hesitation by Ga Power to allow others to sell and install equipment in this state and make money on it? Or is there evidence that someone else’s shoddy equipment and work causes a problem for the utility co. with a lot of finger pointing over whose fault the problem is with consumers trapped in the middle?

    Not everyone in Ga buys power from Ga Power. What do the EMC’s and MEAG members say?

  4. Doug Deal says:

    A program like this might appear to work on a small scale, but it is far from scalable. The same problems with large centralized solar power would exist with large distributed solar power. You still need quickly accessable backup capacity at least equal to the capacity of the solar. This means you have to build the conventional plant (pretty much has to be a nat-gas plant) but only use it when the solar fails (storms, winter, night). So all that happens is that energy is more expensive for everyone.

    Although there is some redistribution of wealth if you are into that kind of thing. (We get to help pay for our neighbors solar panels with our higher cost of electricity and they get to reap the benefits of it with reduced energy costs the part of the day/year when it works.)

    Solar can work for isolated off grid power, especially when usages is low enough to make batteries feasible. It is not well suited for base or even peak power supply applications.

    • Oh, for heaven’s sake. GP is required to buy back 0.2% of the power generated by “alternative” sources like solar. They are required to maintain 24/7/365 availability already. Their transmission lines and associated infrastructure are already up and those costs are already being recovered from ratepayers. So a tiny drop in the bucket of available Kwh from which to recover the costs of solar power (which homeowners have to pay for themselves) is going to drive your rates up? I don’t buy that argument, but if I did, how much would it be?

      • Doug Deal says:

        Oh, yeah, I forgot. It’s a tiny drop in the bucket, so let’s waste it. I wonder how many tiny drops in the bucket it takes before we start to count.

        If everyone else in the state gave me a penny I could afford to drive one of those Cadillacs that Romney’s wife drives, and which I hear is the pinnacle of style and comfort. Are you so uncaring and greedy to prevent me this one thing all because of a measly penny?

        • Again: I do not buy that argument. (See picture.)
          Again: Even if I DID buy that argument, how much would your power rates increase because I put solar panels on my roof and if/when I had any excess power, got to sell it back to the power company?

          • Calypso says:

            And any costs to the power co. for lines, poles, rectifiers, grid integrity, electrical doo-dads, etc., would be negotiated into the sell-back price.

          • Doug Deal says:

            Mike, make that 1.1 pennies. I am getting the underbody protection and the clearcoat(tm).

            So why not just give a subsidy to each installation of solar panel if it does not matter that they cost more for the rest of the grid? At least you would then be honest about the fact that it is a welfare program. Anyway, here is the problem demonstrated by mathematical proof:

            1. Solar panels cannot provide reliable base or peak power.
            2. Backup power units much then be provided to provide a one for one replacement level of power for when solar power is unavailable.
            3. The unavailablility of solar is not random, so when solar becomes unavailable, it must generally be replaced 100%.
            4. The cost of building something is > $0.
            5. The marginal cost of running something on standby is > $0.
            6. The time the backup capacity is not being used because the solar has kicked in is running up costs that have to be paid by the rest of the grid.
            7. The less you use the backup the higher the ammortized construction costs are per unit of energy produced.
            8. Poorly synched power patched back into the grid destroys energy produced, which means additional energy must be supplied to make up for those losses.
            9. The power generated by the solar customer is paid for by the utility, regardless if they can use it, want it or need it.
            10. Money cannot materialize out of no where (the Fed excluded).
            11. Someone has to pay for the added costs.
            12. Q.E.D.

  5. Doug Deal says:

    Also, you guys do know that grid power is “alternating current”, which means instead of the electrons flowing from a source to a destination like flowing water, the electrons just sit in place and oscillate back and forth as a function of a sine wave. This means you do not just hook up your power to the grid and let it fly. It means it has to be tuned to not only be at the same frequency, but the same phase of that freqency.

    Many people have heard of the phrase 180 degrees out of phase. Well in energy this would mean that you actually destroy energy since you will be pushing agains the load in the wires. But, even if you are less than 180 out of phase you will still be causing problems and you can even through the freqnecy and phase out of whack.

    This means the power utility will have to correct for all the problems introduced by these point source generators and may even need to provide additional energy to compensate for the losses.

    I am no electrical enegineer (my least favorite engineering discipline), but I would love to ask one some pointed questions about this program and the real bottom line consequences.

    • Todd Rehm says:

      Doug’s correct, and a metric serving-ton of money is spent in the US to maintain the integrity of the grid through keeping the timing running correctly. Not only does it affect the reliability of the grid, but of many of the devices we use that derive their time signal from the assumption that grid electricity is reliably 60Hz.

      Having the clocks in your home run a little bit slow probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but there are other ramifications. What if all the clocks and timing equipment in hospitals, laboratories and 911 call centers started to fluctuate? Could cause a problem or two.

      The best analogy I’ve heard is this: asking to sell solar power back onto the grid is like having well water and expecting to be able to just pump whatever you don’t use back into the municipal water system.

      • To Doug’s argument: Why not make the solar companies generate their power to the same standards and consistency that the other power companies do? That’s a better solution than banning solar power purchase agreements altogether.

        To Todd’s argument: Same question. Also, how do they handle the 60 hertz problem in the 45 other states where these agreements are legal?

        • Todd Rehm says:

          There are actually two different issues and two different bills being conflated here.

          The first issue is third party power purchase agreements, which is what happens if I let “Mike Hassinger Solar Power” put a bunch of panels on my roof, and I buy power from him at a rate that covers the power consumed and, over time, his capital and maintenance expenses.” That’s one idea, and one bill.

          The second issue is of private producers being able to sell electricity back to the grid, or more accurately, to force Georgia Power to buy any excess energy produced by solar producers. That’s a second issue and a second bill. Sometimes the two issues get combined in a single bill.

          That’s called a Christmas tree, whether it’s powered by coal, natgas or solar.

          When you say “how do they handle the 60 hertz problem in the other 45 states,” you’re talking about the first issue, Power Purchase Agreements, not the second. The answer is that they’re not handling the problem in the other 45 states, becuase the “45 other states” refers to states in which PPAs are legal, not to states in which utilities are forced to buy excess production from private solar producers.

          There isn’t much of a problem when I hire “MTH Solar Power” to install the panels and the system just feeds into my own home electrical system. Worst case scenario, I blow some circuits or start a little electrical fire in my home.

          It’s when you weaken the territorial services act, which gives Ga Power the monopoly on electrical production and sales in Georgia to allow the home-solar that’s financed through a third party deals that you may also open the door to “Ron’s Solar Farm” (they also sell proton packs) in Dodge County to build a huge solar farm and possibly forced Georgia Power to buy everything Ron’s solar farm produces.

          Now you might have a few Ron’s out there kicking out megawatts in the middle of the summer, but you also have a thousand little Todd and Mike outfits producing really negligible amounts of solar and expecting to feed it back into the grid. This has dramatically raised the complexity of maintaining a stable, 60 Hz grid because instead of a handful of Georgia Power facilities generating electricity and then distributing it through a one-way grid, you have a thousand small producers feeding into a two-way grid.

          Additionally, you have increased the complexity of distribution in the sense that now you don’t have a single entity controlling where the electricity is produced in order to serve a distributed consumer base. Solar power produced in Montezuma, GA, wherever that is, doesn’t become instantly and freely available when the demand is in North Georgia. There is loss associated with moving electricity over distance, as well as degradation in, you guessed it, frequency. In order to transport electricity over distances, it is generally stepped-up in voltage and carried over high-power wires to wherever it will be stepped-down and distributed to the home.

          Doug Deal is correct about the issues he raises, as well. The cost of the infrastructure that by law connects every home in Georgia is borne by ratepayers and is paid for in the form of the electrical rate they pay every month. If I start using 20% less electricity, I am paying less of the infrastructure costs, which must be shifted to other users, even though I still have the same lines coming to my house, and I still have the ability to draw Georgia Power’s electricity on demand.

          • Ford says:

            FAIL. Either you don’t know what you are talking about or you have purposefully tried to confuse the issue. There are NOT two (2) bills. There is one. The fictitious 2nd Bill you refer to is called current law. Any excess power produced by anyone is currently mandated by current law to be bought back by Georgia Monopoly at something called “avoided cost.” Think wholesale. That figure is about .05 per kwh then they sell it to the prisoners on their plantation for about .14 per kwh and get to pocket a guaranteed profit for their trouble no how bad they operate their company.

            In addition, in your illustration about how power degrades as it travels, any thinking person would understand it totally makes the argument for distributed generation. Centralized (power plant type) generation that has to be transmitted over hundreds of miles as opposed to hundreds of feet via distributed generation will degrade more.

            And when did Georgia Monopoly last build a transmission line to your house? Last week? Last year? Last decade? When exactly do you get it “paid off” and own it? Never, they just keep billing the slaves and expecting them to thank their massah for treatin us so good while our rates have gone up and up and up!

  6. Doug Deal says:

    I am not referring to solar power companies, I thought we were referring to individual solar installations. Centralized power is easier to maintain, rectify, tune and synch than distributed point sources. How much more of a maintenance burden is synching power from thousands of point sources than a handful of commercial solar plants?

    On the 60 hz problem in countries where significant power comes from heavily subsidized alternative sourse, I have read that the power is very noisey, phase and frequency drift and power is not as reliable as a more conventional system. Think intermittent clouds, winds, etc causing frequent load changes.

    Here is an example of something where the frequency of the current can be critical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronous_motor

    • Sigh.
      Once more: Homeowners can ALREADY buy their own solar installations. The law (SB 401, now an amendment to SB 459) would allow them to finance the purchase of these solar installations. Georgia Power does not want customers to be able to finance the purchase of these power generating solar panels. Georgia Power’s arguments in support of killing this proposed law have been irrelevant, specious and wrong, and their techniques have been Soviet in their heavy-handedness.

      • Todd Rehm says:

        They can buy them and they can already finance them. They just can’t finance them in the form of a power purchase agreement. There is a difference.

        • Doug Deal says:

          See, that’s where Mike is being coy. It is NOT a finance agreement, it is a subsidy that nothing buy gamesmanship to make it look like it is being financed.

      • Doug Deal says:

        Okay, so you are telling me that Ga Power will NOT be forced to buy excess power from these units once they are installed?

        From my understanding, part of all of this was that particular provision, which I think is nothing but a welfare program. If people want to buy solar panels, go ahead. It’s the whole selling back to the grid that I would be against. If I am wrong and this type of provision or something very much like it is not in there, then I go back to not caring.

  7. Jackster says:

    So a good question to everyone:

    For an extra $5 or $10 for 100 KW, you can buy “green” energy from Georgia Power.

    There is currently a 4 MW waiting list for the premium resell rate for alternative (solar) energy ($.17 vs. cost offset).

    So, by subscribing to this plan to pay MORE for your electricity, wouldn’t that be the same thing?

      • Calypso says:

        This is an electrical posting. 4MW is a 4 megawatt long waiting list, which is considerable. I’ll leave and go to another restaurant if the host(ess) tells me the wait is more than 2MW.

        If he said it was a 4mW it would be a 4 milliwatt long waiting list. That is much shorter, I usually just have a beer at the bar until a table opens up.

      • Jackster says:

        @Mike Hassinger – It’s a ways. Let’s put it like this – GP tiered pricing for solar power – .17 and cost avoidance (just to get you to a $0 bill.)

        Which means GP is artificially skewing the demand and supply of solar power by stating there is a 4 MW waiting list (i.e. They are saying there’s no demand for solar power @ a premium .17 / KW).

        However, they are more than willing (forced) to buy your power at a lower cost.

  8. saltycracker says:

    In related news Southern Co. today sent each stockholder $47.25 for @ 100 shares and in a market that fell 1.5% their stock went up 1% closing at $44.65. Annual yield 4.3%.

    Be glad to show the formula again for y’all to calculate how much you’ll need to spend to get free electricity for life on a maintenance free, appreciating investment.
    It’s cheaper than mother earthing it.

    Disclaimer, nothing is risk free. But this one is proven reliable and portable at no cost.

      • 4.3% is pretty decent if you’re looking for something stable. If you don’t mind a bit more risk, I play in the mREIT market. NLY and ARR being two of my current investments.

      • saltycracker says:

        Example – modify to suit your situation:
        Power bill of $110 mo.avg, ($1320 yr.)
        100s of SoCo pays $189 yr., 700s pays $1323 yr.
        $45 x 700 = $31,500 investment

        Lots of variables in play to drive a personal opinion: initial costs, personal tax situation, rebates & incentives, maintenance, commissions, warranties, future value and earnings or output, portability..

        D.S. is correct there are riskier ways to make a buck, but that’s another discussion. I don’t like volatility, prefer less risk, do not want to take the research time and do not want to try and figure out precisely when to get in or get out.

        I do have an allocation of some real return stuff, REIT’s, natural resources and such but my personal satisfaction is like FSICX & PTTDX. For discretionary $$$, utilities like SO & NEE have been very, very consistent while appreciating in value over the years.

        And back on topic, the cash pays my power and much more…..

      • Engineer says:

        I guess you are right, I did think it looked like applesauce, after searching around the internets, I found out that it was a picture of slow cooker spiced applesauce. Also, it is called a “Crock Pot” (or a slow cooker).

  9. john gornall says:

    I have enjoyed the debate and the information provided. I am a Georgia Power customer, so my examples are from GP and my power bills.

    If an electrical utility can not cope with a couple of hundred Megawatts of reasonably predictable solar power generation for peak power, then I have doubts about the benefits or capabilities of “smart meters” and the “smart grid.”

    Does anyone believe you receive clean uninterrupted power now ? Almost every electronic applicance I own with a clock blinks at least once a week. Whether from power interruption or frequency problems, I don’t know.

    The cost of buying solar power under the GP green power program is effectively $ 10 per 100 kwh block, because only 50% of the block is solar. That is a cost to me of about 22+ cents/kwh of solar energy. GP’s recent RFP for 50 Megawatts was at 15 cents/kwh and I understand that GP starts paying in 2015.

    GP in its filings with FERC showed that it has substantial capacity that is not being used. A number of peaking plants are not being used. Like all of us, GP missed the reductions in total demand in recent years.

    GP’s spokesperson confirmed in the AJC that cost of paying 17 cents per kwh for 100 MGW of solar power would have added 60 cents to the average customer’s monthly bill. The PSC staff confirmed this as well. Interesting to compare this to the 22+ cents/kwh cost of solar energy from the green power program. This 60 cents was the “massive” upward pressure on rates widely publicized. Compare a monthly increase of 60 cents to the monthly increases to average customers in recent years.

    What jobs and investment has the air pollution cost the metro Atlanta area ? It has been reported that about 1/3 of the air pollution in Atlanta metro area is from power generation. The real answer is, “we will never know.” How many companies eliminate air non attainment areas such as Atlanta from consideration in location decisions ?

    The extraordinary legislative grant of a monopoly and the guarantee of a 12 % return on investment can be conditioned on a small concession to renewable energy, including solar energy, and some distributed generation. If I were an officer of an electrical utility, I would be obligated to try to preserve these extraordinary legislatively granted economic advantages. The utility reaction to the legislation appears to be similar to an elephant being terrorized by a mouse.

    Most homeowners and privately owned businesses are going to size their solar systems so that they rarely supply power to the grid. The 5-6 cents/ kwh the utility pays them for excess power is not much incentive to supply power to the grid.

    If other grids can manage distributed utility scale solar generation, why can’t ours ? Why can other grids accomodate solar power and ours supposedly can not ?

  10. saltycracker says:

    Mike,

    I do have a concern on my electrical supplier. I have emailed them THREE times about my transmitting smart meter.
    What are they doing with the daily use info?
    Do they sell my info to marketers ?
    Can the data be intercepted to determine if we are at home ?
    Is it shared with any govt agency?
    Picture a truck of bad guys cruising your neighborhood reading your electrical use.

    You can go on line and look at your most recent usage, spooky, unless your kids are skipping school and playing video games.

    You’d think I’d get a privacy statement or promise of encryption or something comforting.
    Nope. They will not respond.

    • Those sound like reasonable questions that deserve an answer. Honestly, I don’t know enough about smart meters to do anything more than feed some conspiracy theories, but getting no answer is even worse than getting an answer you don’t like.

  11. Bull Moose says:

    Great post! It’s time for competition in Georgia for electricity. This monopoly has gone on long enough.

  12. Bull Moose says:

    Let me add that a prominent weatherman in Savannah had solar panels installed on his house. He has documented proof that his power bill has gone down dramatically and he, from time to time, posts such information on Facebook. I believe at one point, his power bill was near zero this past fall.

    GA get’s plenty of sunshine and there shouldn’t be so many obstacles to affordable solar power for consumers.

    • Doug Deal says:

      The debate is not that solar panels can generate electricity, it is that they cannot do so at a reasonable cost and this plan is just another government subsidy.

      • CB says:

        Actually, a recent study shows that, within some areas of the country, we are approaching grid parity. See here:
        http://csemails.elsevier.com/Branker_Pathak_and_Pearce_%20RSER.pdf

        and this quote (from Fastcompany): “If you don’t want to wait for solar grid parity, it has already arrived in parts of the U.S. (California and Hawaii), and it will hit Germany in 2013, three years ahead of schedule. ” (http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679320/solar-power-pricey-its-cheaper-than-anyone-thinks)

        Also, if you want to talk subsidies as it relates to energy, please keep in mind that Plant Vogtle was the recipient of the same DoE Loan Program as Solyndra (yes, that company). And, it’s to the tune of 8.3 BILLION dollars. If you think that Vogtle 3 and 4 will come in on time and on budget, then I’d like to remind you that Vogtle 1 and 2 were over budget by 8 Billion dollars and 16 years. (Full disclosure: I HAVE worked in the nuclear industry and have colleagues who worked on Vogtle 1 and 2. I, personally, am a supporter of Nuclear but I think it’s important that you do a fair comparison).
        http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/02/10/nuclear-energy-nl-ga-s-2-new-reactors-may-trigger-even-more.html

        Also, let’s be clear. The recovery cost financing for Vogtle is over 5% of the base bill. That is SIGNIFICANTLY more than ANY rate increase that is being introduced by Solar. Here’s the rate tariff:
        http://www.georgiapower.com/pricing/pdf/10.10_NCCR-1.pdf

        And, how does that translate into Georgia Power’s profitability? Quite handsomely according to the AJC:

        http://www.ajc.com/business/georgia-powers-rates-a-1316533.html

        The point? We need a mix of energy solutions and we need to provide customers (residential and business) with flexible financing choices – just like in any other segment of the market. This is simply about property rights , market dynamics, and free choice. If you don’t want to put solar on your house or business, then that’s fine. Don’t inhibit it for others.

        • Doug Deal says:

          The numbers in the article are flawed for two major reasons, they are including governmental subsidies and tax breaks (which do not reduce the cost, it just means someone else is paying for it) and they are touting numbers from California, which has some of the highest subsidies in the land, and Hawaii that is at just about the most favorable lattitude for solar.

          Further, the supposed “good news” in solar they are touting are projected future installation costs, not actual real costs of installation today and they are not even the realistic conservative estimates, they are the most optimistic estimates by a solar cheerleading group. They also use overly optimistic lifetime and degridation estimates. Finally, they also do not count backup capacity which the need of doesn’t go away just because you chose not to calculate it. Again, making someone else pay for it also does not make the cost go away.

          Nuclear plants are expensive to build, but cost about nothing to run. Nuclear fuel is so insignificant to the cost of the plant that it can go up a factor fo 10 and it would not change the marginal cost of generation. If we standardized nuclear plant design and built more than 2 in 30 years, the cost would also come down.

          But still, natural gas turbine plants are cheap to build and our natural gas reserves have greatly expanded in resent years, meaning the price will stay reasonable for a long time.

          I have no problem for people paying for their own solar panels and instaling them at enormous cost on their own roof. I do have a problem with them getting everyone else to pay for their “savings”.

          • CB says:

            Do you have any facts to support the statement “nuclear expensive to build, but cost nothing to run”?

            In regards to natural gas, just a few years ago, prices were very high. There’s nothing to indicate that they will remain so. Fact is fossil fuel prices are volatile.

            And, AGAIN, this bill is not asking anyone else to pay for their costs. If your assumption is that, with solar, that if it reduces an individuals cost thru energy savings and reduction, and those costs are “passed on” to others. Then, I would make the same argument with customers installing insulation, CFL/LED light bulbs, hi efficiency HVAC, high efficiency windows, etc… Programs that Georgia Power supposedly supports.

            • Doug Deal says:

              The only cost I mean are fuel costs per unit energy. Coal and natural gas, for example, cost of the fuel is a major component.

              Staff, maintenance, and etc are never free, just like in wind, solar and hydro.

  13. seekingtounderstand says:

    As for the cost of new nuclear plants and new natural gas plants, we have new federal government regulations concerning the use of coal that made the investment necessary.
    So it is government who raised our standards which raised our costs. And local and state governments always make utitlities pay for stuff they want. Ask Mayor Reed if utilities are eating any of the costs of Streetcars which is then passed on to you the consumer.
    Government is the driver of higher costs. Not Georgia Power.
    As for the people who would politicalize our utility companies for profit and seek to make them unhealthy financially………………go study what happens. You won’t like the results when its hot.

  14. jameshrust says:

    SOLAR ENERGY POSSIBILITIES FOR GEORGIA—PART II THE NEED FOR SUBSIDIES

    James H. Rust

    As shown in SOLAR ENERGY POSSIBILIES IN GEORGIA—PART I, solar photovoltaic electricity is more expensive than conventional electricity sources from fossil fuels. Subsidies are required in order to promote its use. Subsidies are in the form of payments or tax credits for construction of solar systems, forcing power companies to pay above market prices for excessive electricity production called feed-in-tariffs, and mandates for use of solar energy without regard to cost of products. A vast array of subsidies is provided by the U. S. government, state governments, and municipalities.

    Subsidies for individual states are given by a Department of Energy website operated by North Carolina State University at http://www.dsiresa.org/

    The website solar subsidies for Georgia, current as of May 5, 2011, are as follows:

    A Federal tax credit of 30 percent total cost of solar facilities for corporate or residential use.

    A Georgia corporate tax credit of 35 percent total cost of facilities up to $500,000. Total annual subsidies can’t exceed $5 million starting 2012, good through 2014. Size of facilities is limited to 100 kilowatts.

    For personal use the tax credit is 35 percent up to a maximum of $10,500. Solar plants must be owned by property owners and restricted to a maximum size of 10 kilowatts. Total annual subsidies starting in 2012 can’t exceed $5 million through 2014.

    Georgia Power Company or other electricity suppliers must pay 17 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity sent back to the grid due to lack of demand by solar power plant owners.

    The Georgia Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act of 2001 spelled out the terms for businesses and property owners to generate electricity from renewable sources on site, prohibiting leasing, power purchase agreements (PPA), or other forms of third-party financing.

    In order to remove limits on power generation and allow third-party financing on solar and other renewable energy sources, a bill designated SB 401 to amend the 2001 Act was introduced February 7, 2012 by four Republican and two Democrat Senators. One co-sponsor of the bill is Sen. Buddy Carter of Pooler, GA.

    The Internet version of the Atlanta Business Chronicle had a February 12, 2012 article “Nuclear power, renewable energy could be on the rise in Georgia; coals future unclear” that provided a link to SB 40l and gave a good description of the motivations behind this bill. The article with links to the bill and other important features is given by the url that follow:
    http://saportareport.com/blog/2012/02/nuclear-power-renewable-energy-could-be-on-rise-in-georgia-coal-unclear/

    Further information about SB 401 is contained in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Internet article by Kristina Torres February 16, 2012 “Should alternative energy restriction be dropped” at the following url:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-government/should-alternative-energy-restrictions-1351980.html

    This article mentioned one of the bill’s “sponsors, Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, who questioned Georgia’s commitment to renewable energy given by the law’s current restrictions.”

    Progress of SB 401 has not been promising; however, Mary Landers of the Savannah Morning News posted an article “Solar bill jolted back to life” February 24, 2012. She wrote Sen. Buddy Carter(R-Pooler) had revived SB 401 by having it tacked onto SB 459, a bill allowing consumers to opt-out of smart meters. She wrote, “Carter’s interest in third party power purchase agreements came from constituent Dr. Sidney Smith,”

    Dr. Smith is an investor in solar energy. In an April 10, 2010 article by the Associated Press “Solar farm a first in Georgia” covered by the Local News of the Tifton Gazette, it was written “With the state and federal tax credits he’s been able to tap into he expects to recoup his investment in about 15 years.”

    SB 401, or its replacement, provides subsidies to third power party suppliers by way of federal and state taxpayer-funded tax credits. Feed-in-tariffs for electricity not used by customers is not clear—although it may range between 5 and 17 cents per kilowatt-hr.

    Electricity provided to customers by PPAs replaces electricity that would have been supplied by Georgia Power Company or an EMC. These organizations still have to provide electricity to PPA customers when the sun does not shine; which is the majority of the time. Georgia Power and EMCs have vast overhead expenses that are partially described by meter readings, billing, transmission line’s construction and maintenance, new hook-ups, repairing systems due to catastrophic nature events, etc. These expenses are paid out of customer kilowatt-hr charges which most likely are more than half a monthly bill. Consequently, Georgia Power Company or EMCs are losing overhead revenue due to loss of sales picked up by PPAs. This represents a third subsidy, which some may call an unforeseen consequence, of allowing third party power suppliers an increase in subsidized renewable power generation.

    Increased use of solar power in Hawaii has caused a loss of revenue for the Hawaii Electric Company (HECO); while its overhead remains the same. The company is proposing rate increases in order to recover lost revenue; although the problem has not been resolved as of this writing.

    SB 401 may have appeared legislation to provide citizen’s control of their property, more jobs, and relief on power bills. Its result is more tax payer funded renewable energy subsidies, higher electricity rates for all power users, and a source of income for a small group of renewable energy providers.

    Increased taxes, and by analogy increased electricity rates, should provide benefits to all who fund these increases. The benefits should not be for the few who take advantage of, or even cause, these increases.

    It may be prudent the Georgia Legislature examine all subsidies for renewable energy sources such as payments to purchasers of electric cars, filling stations to allow E-85 sold at pumps, etc. The public is negligent on how tax dollars are spent.

    With our present state of technology, renewable energy sources follow the old saying “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”

    Dr. James H. Rust is a retired Georgia Tech nuclear engineering professor with over 50 year experience in energy related areas.

    • CB says:

      Frustrating how this debate is missing the larger point (or the point of the bill). And, a GT Professor should have the courtesy to backup his argument with substantive facts – no matter how impressive his background.

      According to HECO spokesperson Darren Pai, “almost all of Hawaii’s electricity generation comes from imported oil.” (Actually, 76 percent of Hawaii’s electricity comes from oil.) and,
      “Last year, Pai said, HECO’s ratepayers’ bills increased “$61 per month, and $57 of that was due to the increase in the price of oil.”
      http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Hawaii-Asks-Some-Big-Questions-About-Solar-Penetration/

      In regards to nuclear energy and fossil fuels, the externalities are never factored in. What’s the value of clean air and water? Or, the impact on water usage (power plants are intense users of our water resources). Furthermore, we still have not solved the problem of spent nuclear storage. What is that cost to the taxpayers (a subsidy)? And, I would hate to postulate an accident similar to Fukishima. What would the cost of something like that be?

      Also, your flawed argument is based upon the notion that the way we’ve been doing things is the way we should always be doing things. The energy landscape is changing drastically and its extremely volatile (noticed the price of gas lately?). Change is to be embraced and appreciated and we should leverage new technologies to our advantage. If we don’t, we are going to get passed by other countries and other regions.

      Look no further than Kodak. A company that, for the most part, invented the digital imaging industry. Kodak is now in bankruptcy because they didn’t understand how to embrace a disruptive technology. The same could be said for the power companies.

  15. Chaos says:

    I have enjoyed this post. Enlightening, to say the least.

    Since no one has come right out and said it, I will: GP blows.

    They are guaranteed a return on their investments. Talk about subsidies… it is no wonder that they have the largest lobbyist group at the capitol. Every time the rate payers turn around, GP is asking for something else. And they get it every time.

    Bottom line: They need a swift kick in the @ss. And the legislature needs to get off of theirs…

  16. jameshrust says:

    I would like to buy a Chevrolet Volt. But the $40,000 price is too much. The federal government will give me $7500 to buy the Volt; but it still costs $32,500 and the Cruze the same size cost $18,000. If the State of Georgia government would give me $20,000, I would buy a Volt.

    Would somebody please introduce legislation to give me that money now.

    This is the same argument used by those who want solar electricity for their homes or businesses. They want the state and federal governments to pay them to buy the products.

    James H. Rust

  17. elfiii says:

    I’m going with Doug on this one. He’s the only one who sounds like he knows what he is talking about.

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