Georgia net-metering program reaches cap, jeopardizing rooftop solar growth
Rapid adoption of solar energy systems by home and business owners in Georgia under Georgia Power’s “Monthly Net Metering” program is about to stall and could threaten solar jobs in the state. When the Public Service Commission instituted the program in 2019, it put a limit on the number of customers who could benefit from monthly settlement. That maximum has now been reached.
“For the first time in state history, Georgia Power customers with solar panels on their homes or businesses can get full credit for energy exported to the utility,” said Montana Busch, co-chair of the Georgia Solar Energy Association and CEO of Alternative. Energy Southeast, headquartered in Athens. “This policy has contributed to the creation of hundreds of new jobs in one year. If the PSC’s cap holds, we will lose many of these high paying jobs.”
Monthly grid metering is a basic utility policy where solar customers are credited at the retail rate for the solar energy returned to the grid, as required by the Georgia Cogeneration and Distribution Act of 2001. An analysis from the Southern Environmental Law Center shows monthly net readings as an industry standard solar utility policy. Under monthly net metering, customers are essentially credited with the full retail value of their solar energy (up to their monthly usage) rather than the wholesale rate (⅕ of the average retail rate) Georgia Power previously received for all solar exports.
Georgia Power’s monthly grid meter program was created as part of the 2019 Public Service Commission (PSC) Rate Case with the support of the Georgia Solar Energy Association. Public Services Commissioner Tim Echols added a cap of 5,000 customers or 32 MW of capacity, whichever comes first. Rather than directly crediting a customer’s excess solar at wholesale prices, the utility uses excess solar to offset consumption, further reducing the customer’s bill.
“The monthly grid metering pilot program has been a huge success for Georgia Power customers and the growing solar industry,” said Russell Seifert, CEO of Creative Solar USA in Kennesaw, Georgia. “We have been in the state for 13 years and the approval of the monthly grid metering program for Georgia Power signaled to us that Georgia was finally becoming a mature solar market. Now is not the time to put a limit on the solar opportunities in Georgia. Adjacent southern states already have many times more than Georgia Power’s 5,000 customers with on-site solar power: South Carolina with more than 20,000; Florida with nearly 60,000.”
The solar industry in Georgia has added dozens of new companies and thousands of new solar installations to the program by 2021. Now that the limits have been met, Georgia Power customers interested in solar energy can only recoup wholesale costs from the excess energy they produce. If the Public Service Commission doesn’t renew the program, the Georgia Solar Energy Association warns that hundreds of solar jobs will be at stake if companies re-evaluate their presence in the state.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Georgia is currently ranked 9th among all states for the amount of solar installed with one of the fastest growing solar job markets in the nation.
Georgia Solar Energy Association plans to hold webinars for solar installers and solar owners interested in learning more about monthly netting caps and urged interested parties to visit www.gasolar.org for updates.
News release from the Georgia Solar Energy Association