Proposed state legislation could be a ray of light for the solar industry in Georgia.
The measure, introduced by District 25 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon, would allow property owners to work directly with solar energy companies to finance and install solar panels on their personal property.
House Bill 874 faces a tough road to passage in the House of Representatives and Senate, according to Dudgeon, a Republican from south Forsyth.
“The companies that finance solar won’t come into Georgia because the [current] law is so unclear,” he said. “This sets it up clearly so that market can come to Georgia. The goal of this bill is to increase the demand of solar technology here in Georgia.
“It’s a net positive to the people who supply the solar energy.”
Among those companies are Forsyth County-based Solar Energy USA, which offers residential and commercial solar installation and solutions.
Perry Bell, the company’s president and CEO, said the measure is “a step in the right direction.”
“I don’t think it would be immediate gratification, but I think everybody would benefit,” he said. “It would just free up the possibilities of building businesses that would be progressive in the state.
“There are not a whole lot of things that align for solar to have a great chance in the state of Georgia today.”
Dudgeon emphasized the bill would not create any subsidies or government assistance. Instead, it would allow the free market to operate, helping grow the future of solar power in Georgia as the market dictates.
“The issue is controversial,” he said. “The power companies haven’t taken an official position, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they opposed it. They feel this is one of the cracks in the door that opens up competition.
“But the bill is trying to clarify the law so people can use whatever free market financing is available ... as long as they’re using the power primarily on their own property.”
Dudgeon said it in no way would allow a business to sell solar energy to neighboring homes or businesses. It would be strictly as a cost-cutting measure for those choosing to rely on solar. The measure would allow a choice for those wanting to finance solar energy.
“If more people can get solar because they have more financing options, then there’s going to be more panels and more solar technology needed as people adopt it,” he said. “In places with these financial options, they’ve seen an increase in customer demand.”
Bell hopes Dudgeon’s effort has a better chance than previous similar measures because there’s more awareness of the topic and the industry, which “is growing.”
“It’s just a matter of at what rate,” he said. “We’re busy. We do well, but it will certainly grow in time and it will continue to grow. Certain incentives, certain bills and certain rules and regulations make the environment more conducive for some states more than others ... and Georgia is low on the list.
“I think it’s a first of a bill that would get things going in the right direction.”