Op-Ed: Alternative energy in Georgia

Much has been said and written lately about SB 401 that was assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee of which I am Chairman.

I have and will continue to be a strong advocate of alternative energy in the State of Georgia and in America as a whole.

I also believe that I carry a heavy responsibility as Chairman to every Georgian to make sure that legislation is considered and carefully studied before it is released from committee.

SB 401 has many far reaching impacts and while it may be exactly what Georgia needs, we must spend extensive time studying this bill to make sure that the impacts will not add burdens to businesses and you the people in escalating energy costs.

The 20th district, which I represent, is home to the international headquarters of MAGE Solar, an innovative, forward thinking solar manufacturer. MAGE Solar instantly brought 50 jobs to my district with the prospect of growing to 350 within the first five years of opening.

I am proud that this solar panel innovator is such a prominent asset in the 20th.

Along with other solar companies such as Suniva, which is expanding its workforce in North Georgia, Georgia’s solar industry is working toward promoting clean, viable energy that will make our state a better place to live for ourselves and future generations.

Georgia law does not prevent a homeowner or business from installing a solar system on their property and producing electricity for their own use. State and federal tax incentives make installation more cost-effective, and any excess may be sold back to a regulated public utility. Senate Bill 401 allows outside parties to sell electricity using unregulated power purchase agreements. “Unregulated” can lead to a lack of oversight and accountability. We need to ensure that any changes made by this bill do not compromise our responsibility to protect the consumer and address any safety and reliability concerns.

I propose creating a study committee to determine the scope of impact on Georgia families, jobs in our state, and economic development opportunities.

We owe it to hard working citizens to dedicate our time to making sure these are positive impacts.

History has shown us that changes in how we regulate power, such as the deregulation of natural gas, can have far reaching and unintended, negative impacts on both commercial and residential rate payers.

Energy innovation is a top priority of mine and I assure each of you that I believe energy improvements can change the economic outlook of this country.

As a Senator and fellow Georgian, I want you to know it will always be my goal to move this State forward so that your children and mine can enjoy an America free of dependence on foreign energy sources.